SENIOR citizens are an integral part of any society. No one should overlook or forget the contributions they have made while raising families and being an important contributor to the promotion of society and the development of a country. However, in a society like ours, many elderly citizens encounter various difficulties. Carelessness from families, ignorance by the state, diseases and old-age-related physical and mental troubles call for attention towards their multifaceted plights.
In Nepali society, where senior citizens occupy 10 per cent of the total population, the tendency of taking elderly people as a burden has been growing lately. As a result, they lack love, care and respect from family members. Because of this, according to a human rights watchdog report, many senior citizens end up in old-age homes, of which number stands at around 290 across the nation. Family disputes, disintegration, increasing generation gap and lack of moral education have driven the old people to shelter homes. This is not the end of the elderly's dilemma. Poor financial status and increased reliance on family members make them an easy target of abuse and harassment. Add to this the ongoing pandemic situation, which has only increased their woes. Forced to stay indoors for long, senior citizens have confronted the fear of degrading mental health like depression, anxiety and chronic health conditions. Such a blighted situation curtails the chance of leading a quality life for them.
Meanwhile, cases of abuse against the elderly during the pandemic are hardly reported to the concerned bodies due to a lack of awareness, frail health of the elder people and poor social system. As their plight grows, many of them lose lives without getting proper family or government care and treatment. It is sad to note that the old people are given priority in paper only but the reality is - they have to undergo many difficulties in their daily life at a time when the nation and the world are talking about digital inclusion. To address the growing predicament of the elderly population, the world and Nepal marked the International Day of Older Persons on Friday (October 1) with the theme, 'Digital Equity for All Ages that aimed at raising awareness of mental and physical issues and abuses against senior citizens.
Back home, the government has conducted many programmes, a slew of laws and policies for the betterment of the Nepali senior citizens. Apart from granting a monthly social security allowance of Rs. 4000 to them, the government has allowed 50 concessions in transport fares, free health insurance, besides asking all government hospitals to set up geriatric wards. It has worked on constructing a well-facilitated 50-bed geriatric hospital in the capital. Despite all these efforts, issues of abuse against the elderly are heard now and then. Therefore, the government must enact a strong law to assist the elderly population to live a dignified life. An elderly person has a right to live happily with their kith and kin while those without relatives should have all the necessary assistance and care from the government. A society or nation can only be called a prosperous and equitable one only if its elderly people can lead a happy and dignified life. The government, therefore, must make all required arrangements for achieving this goal.