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Don’t Downplay Elders

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Bard of Avon’s “As you live it ‘begins with a beautiful phrase “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely its actors”. These actors, after playing six different acts grow older and finally exit from all stages of life forever. However, the older-stage is one, when their condition becomes miserable. Once an infant and child himself, he now wants infants and children around him to play with. The Lover of the past now desires to be loved.  Soldier, the judge of his times, now waits for helping hand and decision of others. Aging being natural and inevitable, this happens with everyone provided death- A spiritual being won’t call beforehand. Thus, we all at a certain point of time need others irrespective of our stature.

Around us, there are thousands of people playing the last role on the stage. Some are managing it perfectly but a big chunk of the population is suffering. They have no one around that they look for. They don’t find the support which they need. They don’t get the love they desire of. They miss the people who could make them smile. Some live isolated lives even while living with children and some desire to live at their home but they cannot. Currently all around the globe, the rights of these Old (senior) citizens are being crushed and are not provided with what they deserve. They face all sorts of problems including psychological, financial, and social as well.

The name “Old Age Home” speaks volumes about our insensitiveness. The increasing number of old-age homes in India is an alarming depiction. In a bid of getting materialistic recognition, we ignore those who make the foundation of our life, who teaches us to talk and talk and bear the discomfort for our comfort. For our bright future, these altruistic entities sacrifice their present. They pin hopes on us that their old days would be better because of us. But in the end, things go diametrically opposite when they are left to wither in old-age homes. This leads to psychological problems that they later fail to withstand.

Most of these citizens face financial problems. While living with their family, they are deprived of their basic rights. They don’t get proper care and attention from family members thus languish for the rest of life. These people who nourish their families by putting their sweat and blood finally become the burden for them. Those who spend their earnings on the prosperity of wards later fail to fetch much-required medicines from them.

Socially also, these people are marginalized. With exceptions, most of the people show aversion towards them. Their company is not preferred. Owing to their experience if they try to share their views or advice on any issue, their voices are gagged. They are discredited for being a part of society. Mental disorders including poor memory, intolerance, incoherence, etc are very closely associated with old-age and are normal but instead of handling the situation, we make them feel more unpleasant through our approach. We lose our forbearance if the old-person repeats his question. If he fails to understand us, he faces contemptuous laughter and ridicule. There used to be days when the youth would offer his bus-seat to the old person. But nowadays they are seen standing throughout the journey. Though in public transport, seats have been reserved for them by concerned authorities yet they suffer because of negligence. In public offices, they are seen waiting in the queue with others having no feelings about their age and health condition.

Every religion has stressed upon rights of senior citizens especially old-aged parents and the holy Quran is no exception. Quran says: “And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small (17:23, 24).In Hadith mentioned in (Al- Tirmidhi) Prophet (Pbuh) elucidates the significance of elderly people and says; He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honor the elderly. (In Abu Dawud) The same hadith is reported, The Prophet (Pbuh) said: Those who do not show mercy to our young ones and do not realize the right of our elders are not from us”. Generally, we found all the elders are compassionate to youngsters but get the hard-hearted response in return from the latter. Merciful Prophet (Pbuh) disowns such people as his ummah. He (Pbuh) encouraged youth to revere elders and said: “If a young man honors an elderly on account of his age, Allah appoints someone to honor him in his old age.” (Al-Tirmidhi).

Laws like “Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007” have been formulated for the protection of their rights but isn’t this a shame, that respect for parents and senior citizens is not evolving from our conscience rather we are forced to serve them under the law. And much brazenness comes to sight when even laws are violated and these people are singled out from societies, communities, and families.

According to the recent report from the Ministry of Social Welfare, only 100 people, mostly males are living in four old-age homes in Jammu and none in Kashmir valley which is inspiriting if compared to the rest of Indian states. However other problems faced by senior citizens here in the family, public places, etc also need to be resolved. We need to realize their significance and keep their rights in view so that they can live a deserving honorable life. We must remember that we also have to go through their phase and if we give them all rights, we also would be treated alike. And by dealing with them with admiration and esteem we can set a precedent for others and generations to come.

Let’s pledge on this day (21 August – dedicated to seniors citizens ) to voice for the rights of seniors citizens so that their rights are not trampled.

Writer: – ZEESHAN RASOOL KHAN, writes on current socio-political issues and can be mailed at    

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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