Senior citizens are without any controversy the most respected mentors of their successors currently at the helm of the state affairs. They are essentially our parents who with utmost care and affection have gradually brought us up and dedicated their whole life to bless us with the brightest career we hold now.
Do we pay them back duly in our turn? Of course, they have sacrificed their time, their joys and their hard-earned money not in the hope of getting returns from their wards. Still it is a moral concern undoubtedly whether a borrower will repay the loan taken from a lender or not.
Senior citizens or otherwise the ageing generations of Bangladesh like many countries of the world are not comfortably and securely settled. They are in dire need of social security, honour and respect. The ground reality touchingly stages the story of their sufferings and miseries. The heinous incident of Thakurgaon Sadar in 2017 where a 100-year old mother was mercilessly beaten up by her own son just for asking rice is yet to be erased from our memory. Though the volume of such heinous atrocities towards our respected old parents is yet to ring an alarm bell, there is not the least doubt that innumerable such cases of torture towards parents go unreported everyday.
Presently 15% of the population is over the age of 60 years and the overwhelming majority of them are some way or the other deprived of their deserved rights barring only a fortunate few. Once we plumb the depths of this blatant deprivation, among many other factors the most shocking one that surfaces first is clearly the attitudinal shift towards the ageing people by the younger generation. Obviously, we have deviated markedly from the bottomline of our traditional code of norms and values. The process of urbanization and automation do surely put a big hand in changing our mindset; still then we can hardly get scot-free in discharging our entrusted responsibility towards our dearest parents. In fact, our respected parents are now living polar apart from us even though they are living in the midst of us sharing the same roof and apartment. What a cruel paradox?
Though with the onset of ageing, people urgently need intensive routine medical care, special dietary menu, assistance in personal errands etc., the need for affectionately caring touch of the dearest and closest ones, most of our older people, instead, drag a wretched existence just on the pity and negligence of others. The unsung litany of their tale of deprivation meet our dead ears over the years. Isn’t it our onerous responsibility to pay them back the tenderest care and softest affection they have brought us up with when we ourselves were children?
Our budgetary allocation for the ageing people is simply a mockery even if compared to some of the underdeveloped as well as developing countries. For example, while Nepal allocates 0.35% of the GDP for the welfare of the elderly people and Lesetho grants 1% of the GDP for the well-being of the ageing people, Bangladesh spends only 0.14% of the GDP in Ageing People Allowance scheme. I believe it is not clearly our unaffordability that matters here. Rather, it is a practical example of our sheer negligence towards our most respected aged generation. We can afford to purchase fleet of highly expensive luxury cars from the public exchequer whereas in sanctioning public money for our parents’ welfare we evidently exposes our inner poverty and stinginess. This is one facet of the episode.
The other one which is even more shockingly disheartening is that a lion’s share of the ageing welfare allocation does not reach at all the genuinely target group and in many cases undesirable beneficiaries reap the benefits. What a moral bankruptcy of the nation! We have taken their hard-earned money in their active years and now we are stealing the coffers meant for their survival. This is one of our ways of paying back to our respected parents!
With the ageing process, people do not automatically become invalid and frail. It is true that aged people are physically weak and shaky, still then their experience, expertise, acumen gained over the years are unquestionably the invaluable treasure-trove for the whole nation. Definitely, these intangible assets help contribute to run an extra mileage on the fast-track of development. We will inevitably be faced with an identity crisis once we deny the invaluable contributions inherited from our forefathers. Again, after formal retirement many aged people keep working actively. Their valuable suggestions and guidelines give us a way out in time of our need.
Among the most developed countries of the world, Japan and Italy stand out as the topmost countries of aged people. 26.3% of the total population of Japan are aged while 21.4% of the total population of Italy happen to be aged. With this overwhelming number of aged people, they happen to be in the list of the most developed nations of the globe. It is clear from a number of statistics that the elderly generations of these countries have been actively contributing their due part in the onward development efforts of their respective nations. However, the older generations of the mentioned conutries have also been suffering and languishing in silence only in the absence of protective care and affection from their dearest ones.
Tragedy of the ageing generations in Bangladesh is that they are now suffering from unfulfilment of their basic material human needs and the scantiest emotional support from their dearest ones. The huge volume of the ageing people hardly get even the minimum financial support from their wards let alone the warmest touch of love and care. Moreover, the whole society is treating them as if they were the burden.
Alongside launching an all-out social campaigning in establishing the due honour of the old people, it has to be made constitutionally mandatory for each and every eligible son and daughter to provide required financial support as well as necessary care and protection to their parents. Any complaint of negligence and maltreatment towards the parents has to be dealt with zero tolerance.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of English, Bogra Cantonment Public School & College. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org