From very early childhood, we have been taught to respect our elders. However, it was only at a quite later stage of life when we actually realised that they deserved respect not only because they are elders or in other words “senior citizens”, but they merited admiration, as besides being elder to us in age, they are far more experienced, much wiser to us making them the finest teachers on the universe, and have seen life from the diverse perspectives which we have either missed or not confronted with.

According to Indian law, a “senior citizen” means any person being a citizen of India, who has attained the age of sixty years or above. As per ‘Population Census 2011’, in India, there are nearly 10.4 crore persons aged 60 years or above. At the same time, the statics contained in the report of ‘United Nations Population Fund and Help Age India’ convey that the number of senior citizens in India is expected to grow to 17.3 crores by the year 2026. Again, the report of ‘Technical Group on Population Projections for India and States 2011-36’, reveals that

This rising population of senior citizens has a specific impact on their emotional, economic, physical and medical needs, and growing old is a natural process and a universally accepted reality of life.

“Throughout our history, older people have achieved much for our families, our communities, and our country. That remains true today, and gives us ample reason this year to reserve a special day in honor of the senior citizens who mean so much to our land.

“With improved health care and more years of productivity, older citizens are reinforcing their historical roles as leaders and as links with our patrimony and sense of purpose as individuals and as a Nation. Many older people are embarking on second careers, giving younger Americans a fine example of responsibility, resourcefulness, competence, and determination. And more than 4.5 million senior citizens are serving as volunteers in various programs and projects that benefit every sector of society. Wherever the need exists, older people are making their presence felt — for their own good and that of others.

“For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”

Population ageing is a preordained and irreversible demographic truth of the present times which, of course, is associated with available encouraging advancements in health and medical facilities. With longevity and declining fertility rates, the population of older persons (60 years and above) in actuality, is globally growing faster than the general population.

To honour senior citizens, by virtue of which the celebration of the day is to express gratitude, express appreciation, honour and recognise the achievements of the elders, besides intensifying awareness about issues that affect them, such as deterioration in health or other day-to-day activities with the advancing of age and abuse at the hands of unscrupulous elements of the society, including sometimes by own kith and kin, etc. In short, the purpose of celebrating the day is to draw the world’s attention to all the health and social issues of the Senior Citizens.

In India, the day is observed in various States/Union Territories by social organisations or NGOs dealing with senior citizens by arranging get-togethers of senior citizens and organising cultural programs, musical events, poetry recitations and honouring of senior citizens, etc. Additionally, the day provides senior citizens an opportunity to underscore issues concerning the senior citizens and remind the Government of its assurances for implementation of various measures needed for the welfare of senior citizens; in particular, stressing that along with not facing abuses, the elders are able to avail benefits from different official programs and schemes as also to take appropriate steps to improve quality of life by making available the elderly with basic amenities and rights.

Here it needs to be taken note that in developing countries, speedy ageing is likely to result in enormous changes in family set-up and characters, as well as future required labour patterns. As a result of the rising trend of urbanisation, migration of young people to cities in search of jobs, absence of the joint family system and more women joining the formal workforce, it is but natural that fewer people would be available to take care of older people when they need assistance. This leads one to believe that the problem of healthy ageing is likely to become the most central and dominant social transformation of the twenty-first century; having bearing upon almost every sector of the global social order such as labour, financial markets, demand for goods and service; including, of course, making higher provisions for adequate, old age-friendly housing, and transportation as well as social protection. The rising population of senior citizens is sure to have a specific impact on their emotional, economic, physical and medical needs. Thus, the authorities are required to re-examine the existing infrastructure and services to support positive ageing and better senior care for the ageing population. Moreover, it has to be acknowledged that ageing does not affect the elderly only; it affects everyone in society in one way or the other. Therefore, everyone has a part to play for the welfare of elders, including the Government and civil society.

Although, besides enforcing certain legislative as well as administrative measures at the Central and State/UT Government levels many programs and schemes aimed at improving the standard of life and welfare of senior citizens have been taken up, but much more is needed to be done in this direction. In the first instance, the Government machinery, in particular, the manpower involved in the implementation of related programs and schemes has to be activated, besides being sensitised to adopt an elderly-friendly attitude. At the same time, it is of utmost importance that the younger generation is motivated to come forward and work spade a spade to ensure that senior citizens are valued, respected, and become an active part of society. Besides educating and sensitising them towards issues concerning senior citizens, their active participation and involvement in the execution of all types of welfare measures are likely to prove quite fruitful in achieving the desired results. Initiative on behalf of the younger generation in contributing their bit, at least on the occasion of ‘Senior Citizen Day’ may bring a smile to the faces of elders. They should make all efforts to find out and understand various problems the elders generally face due to their age and make others aware of those issues. They should acknowledge that their elders are the living memory of history and possess valuable and well-earned wisdom through life experiences, which they would be willingly ready to share with the next generation. In this direction, it would be worthwhile if the UT Social Welfare Department in association with UT Education Department could organise seminars and/or lectures in Colleges and Schools.

Thank the senior citizens you know for their contributions in society.

“Older people do not stop contributing to their communities on retirement. Many continue to provide unpaid and voluntary work for their families and communities. An age-friendly community provides options for older people to continue to contribute to their communities, through paid employment or voluntary work if they so choose and to be engaged in the political process.”

Courtesy : Virender Kumar Gupta

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