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POST TIME: 13 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Caring for senior citizens

Caring for senior citizens

There is no escaping old age. And falling birth rates and rising life expectancy rates have increased the dependency ratios of the elderly. Bangladeshis have a reputation of respecting their elders and taking care of senior citizens. However observing the sad plight of many senior citizens of the country a question naturally arises whether the reputation is deserved or not. In a refreshing development the Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque on Thursday said initiatives would be taken to ensure free medical services for all elderly people aged above 65 years.

We have always stressed the importance of sharing experience and skills of older citizens with different generations of the present time, taking proper care and more steps to improve their life standard to pay due honour to them. With a shift in cultural values as well as greater economic pressures on the younger generations, care of the elderly who see high levels of poverty will invariably suffer — unless provisions are made for by the state.

   Unfortunately many of the elderly people in Bangladesh suffer from basic human problems, such as poor financial support, chronic diseases and absence of proper health and medicine facilities, exclusion and negligence, deprivation and socio-economic insecurity. The degree and extent of these vulnerabilities would likely intensify in near future, due to the faster pace of ageing, as well as the breaking down of the traditional family and community-based care system. The old age allowance programmes are mainly focused on rural areas. At the current pace of urbanisation the number of poor elderly persons residing in urban areas is growing rapidly. We should include these people in the social security schemes.

    It is vitally important to initiate separate budgets for the ageing population in Bangladesh, to not only provide assistance but also reap the benefits of a second demographic dividend. The second demographic dividend results from an increase in adult longevity, which causes individuals to save more in preparation for old age. This increase in savings can thus contribute to capital accumulation and economic growth. Community centres where trained workers provide care and counselling services also need to be established. Since loneliness tends to be a major issue among the elderly, lessons could be learned from Western nations that combine day-care facilities and elderly centres together.