THE world commemorates International Day of Older Persons on 01 October to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society and raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges of ageing in today’s world.
The theme for 2021 International Day is “Digital Equity for All Ages.” It is impossible to deny the importance and usefulness of the elderly people in our social system.
The shadow of the elders, in the form of mother and father, keeps the children in the icy fence of prayers even in the scorching heat.
In the case of teachers, it illuminates the dark paths of life with the flickering candle of knowledge.
And if this same dark shadow is patronizing families, then the continuous attainment of religious and worldly achievements becomes destiny.
Therefore, the presence of the forefathers in every age is no less than a blessing, especially for the young generation.
But if in a so-called modern social system the elders do not have their basic rights, they face hardships, worries, troubles and sufferings at each step, their dignity, honour and status are ignored, then this action not only does it cause practical and moral degradation, but its harmful effects envelop the entire social system, with the consequence being passed down from generation to generation.
On the contrary, if the elders are given their due place, respect and importance in the society, efforts are made for their prosperity and success, work is done to improve their lives, then not only such works are appreciated, but the individuals and organizations who perform them are also the focus of public attention.
But unfortunately we do not see anything happening here that can provide relief to the millions of the poor, the needy and the helpless elderly people in Pakistan. Older people suffering from backwardness in Pakistan are deprived of basic rights.
They are facing hardships, worries, troubles and sufferings at each step and their honour, dignity and status are being neglected.
The elderly people living in backward areas and facing social injustices are tired of fighting the battle of life.
They have neither an access to quality food nor strong and stable shelter nor standard healthcare facilities.
Owing to old age, in most matters of life as senior citizens, the elderly do not get the facilities, privileges, respect and esteem that they deserve.
Incidents such as eviction of mothers and fathers by their children, especially married sons, are on the rise.
And, then those whom they raised and enabled to stand on their feet do not even try to know under which conditions their mothers and fathers are living – whether they are alive or dead.
One thing in observation is that if you talk to the elders in detail, you will know that they do not want to be a burden to anyone.
Though they are old but they do not want themselves to be called disabled and needy. They do not want to be a burden.
They want to do work. Unfortunately, there are no easy employment opportunities available for them. They have to stand in queues and travel in buses while standing.
Now their weak bodies cannot bear pushes at each step, bitterness of accents and negative attitudes. These adverse conditions have robbed the helpless old people of the desire to live.
They have become hopeless and the despair is prevailing in their lives. It seems difficult to breathe.
When night comes after evening, it feels as if the breaking of dawn is impossible. Darkness still exists there, which does not seem to be disappearing.
The social injustices are badly affecting the nerves and psyche of our elders. They are extremely forced and see no way to resolve their problems.
They suffer mental problems and psychological disorders. These people want to be free from all problems by embracing drugs or death.
When it comes to the deadly epidemic, mostly the elderly people in the country get infected with Coronavirus.
Hundreds of precious lives have fallen prey to this deadly disease, including the young and the elderly. The only way to avoid the disease is to achieve full awareness and take precautions.
However, provision of immediate and timely awareness of infectious diseases to the elderly living in impoverished areas has become a question mark.
In the current situation, there is a need to form local organizations and groups of elderly people not only in the backward areas of the country, villages and towns but also in the cities to make them fully aware of their rights, which may prove helpful in building their confidence, promoting mutual consultation, liaison, harmony and assistance on other issues related to life.
At the governmental level, there is need to take concrete steps bringing about pleasant changes in the life of the elderly as a whole. The government should take all possible measures to ensure rights of older people and senior citizens.
On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the young generation to take care of the elderly and do not let reduce their status, dignity and respect. Parents should be respected to seek their prayers and their heart should not be hurt.
— The writer is a Poet based in Karachi.