Caring attitude is an inherent quality of human beings. It is in the human mind in a dormant state. Sometimes it appears with emotion and sometimes in a logical way. But it is true that every human being has this quality. In our society, many elderly people are suffering from various diseases and old age complications. They are passing their lives with many obstacles and obstructions from society and family. They feel lonely and sometimes it may happen that there is no one to attend them. The young family members have no time to talk to them. But they were the guardians, earning members and adviser of the families. In their youth they were the protector of their family. Nowadays what we are seeing is that the elderly persons are being neglected and ignored in many spheres of our social life. We know in the developed countries, special care is taken for elderly and infirm persons, handicapped people, separated and orphan children. In Bangladesh society we see many instances of neglecting and ignoring of elderly people, especially in the family where 2/3 sons try to shift their responsibility regarding parents to each other. As a result, the parents feel like burden to their children. With some exceptions, this is the general phenomena in our prevailing social life. And on top of that, outside the family sphere, elderly persons do not get due respect and honour in government offices, bus stops, railway stations, airports, river ports, etc. Everywhere we should be much more compassionate to the elderly people.
In the homesteads, elderly persons generally feel very lonely and nobody pays due attention or give time to them. But everybody should think that everyone is getting older day by day and one day, time will come that s/he comes to that stage of age or life.Especially widows do not get much care from the family members which they deserve. We know that widows and women do not have any property right in the Hindu family law. They can just enjoy property till their death. But they have no right to sell out the property until and unless they buy the property. For that reason any family decision is generally taken bypassing them. This is the hard reality prevailing in Hindu community.
Generally, elderly people go to public hospitals, account offices, banks in urban areas and in rural areas they go to village shops and crossroads. But everywhere they do not get due respect and importance. They have to wait and keep standing long time in queue to get their work done. Persons sitting at the front desk often have no urgency to provide prompt service to the elderly people.
In railway stations we see long queue for tickets. There is no facility for the elderly people or senior citizens. Young and elderly people queue up at the same line for tickets. Railway authority should introduce some priority ticketing arrangement for elderly people. In this way railway can show respect and honour to the elderly people. Similarly, other service providers may also do likewise.
In local train compartments there are no reserve seats for the elderly people. One can see many elderly people standing and no one sacrifices his/her seat for senior citizens. Similar scene is visible in launches in Sadarghat, Bhola, Borishal and other river ports. Common people generally travel on the decks of launches for economy. But BIWTC or owners of launches do not make any comfortable arrangement for elderly people. For that reason they face many inconveniences in launch journeys.The society has some responsibility to do something for the aged persons. Gradually Bangladesh is being transformed as an economically prosperous country. But especially we are a country of far behind of many other developing countries. Now the population of Bangladesh has gone up to such a stage that the inflow of demographic dividend of the population to the national economy is being started. But at the same time the number of elderly persons or senior citizens has been increased and it is an ongoing process. We know elderly persons are experienced in their respective fields. Even now, some of them can contribute much to the nation. But many of them are not that much active due to health reasons.
To make the life of elderly people more cheerful and healthy we should take some following steps:
a. Overall behavioural pattern of the society and family to the elderly people must be compassionate, caring and friendly.
b. There must be some sort of arrangements for the elderly people in the railway stations, railway compartments, bus stops and city service buses.
c. There must be some arrangements for them in the launches and launch ghat so that they can be comfortable.
d. Social welfare department should start a vigorous campaign for welfare of the elderly people so that they can be secure in the homestead and outside their homes.
e. Government should start a medical support programme to those elderly people who cannot afford medical expenses.
f. Government should utilise the potentiality of elderly educated persons who are still active and in this respect a research work should be started to organise this program.
With the above discussion in mind government and policy makers of our country should think over this issue and try to find appropriate solutions. We know that the elderly people of today once contributed much to our society and family. They came to this world before us. Days are not very far that all of us will get old. This is the universal truth and an ongoing process. We all have to embrace the elderly life and we cannot escape out of this system. Therefore, taking all these points into consideration we should be more caring and more compassionate to the elderly.
Dr. Syed Nesar Ahmad Rumy