Like other parts of the world, Pakistan also commemorates International Day of Older Persons on October 1 to highlight important contributions that older people make to society and raise awareness of opportunities and challenges of ageing in today’s world. The ‘digital equity for all ages’ is the theme for the day in this year. It is impossible to deny importance and usefulness of the elderly people in our social system. In the shape of mother and father, the shadow of the elders keeps the children in the strong fence of prayers even in the scorching heat. In the case of teachers, it illuminates the dark paths of life with flickering candle of knowledge. And if this same dark shadow is patronizing families, then the continuous attainment of religious and worldly achievements becomes destiny.
Therefore, presence of the forefathers in every age is no less than a blessing, especially for the young generation. But if in a modern social system, the elders do not have their basic rights, they face hardships, worries, troubles and sufferings at each step, their dignity, honour and status are ignored, and this does not only cause practical and moral degradation, but the harmful effects envelop the entire social system, with consequence being passed down from generation to generation. On the contrary, if the elders are given their due place, respect and importance in the society, efforts are being made for their prosperity and success, work is being done to improve their lives, then not only such works are appreciated, but individuals and organizations who perform them are also the focus of public attention.
But we do not see anything happening here that can provide relief to the millions of the poor, the needy and the helpless elderly people. Suffering from backwardness, some older people are deprived of basic rights. They are facing hardships, worries, troubles and sufferings at each step and their honour, dignity and status are being neglected. The elderly people living in backward areas and facing social injustices have tired of fighting the battle of life. They have neither an access to quality food nor strong and stable shelter nor standard healthcare facilities. Owing to old age, in most matters of life as senior citizens, the elderly do not get facilities, privileges, respect and esteem that they deserve. Incidents such as evictions of older persons by their children, especially married sons, are on the rise. And, then those whom they raised and enabled to stand on their feet do not even try to know under which conditions their parents are living – whether they are alive or dead.
One thing in observation is that if you talk to elders in detail, you will know that they do not want to be a burden to anyone. Though, they are old but they do not want themselves to be called disabled and needy. They do not want to be a burden on their families and even want to do some work to earn something to spend life with some ease. We can see around us that there are less employment opportunities for older people. The adverse conditions have robbed old people of desire to live. They have become hopeless and the despair is prevailing in their lives. It seems difficult to breathe. When night comes after evening, it feels as if the breaking of dawn is impossible. Darkness still exists there, which does not seem to be disappearing.
The social injustices are badly affecting nerves and psyche of our elders. They are extremely forced and see no way to resolve their problems. They suffer mental problems and psychological disorders. These people want to be free from all problems by embracing drugs or death. When it comes to the deadly epidemic, mostly the elderly people in the country are being infected with Coronavirus. Hundreds of precious lives have fallen prey to this deadly disease. The only way to avoid the disease is to achieve full awareness and take precautions. However, provision of immediate and timely awareness of infectious diseases to the elderly living in impoverished areas has become a question mark.
In the current situation, there is a need to form local organisations and groups of elderly people not only in the backward areas, villages and towns but also in the mega cities to make them fully aware of their rights, which may prove helpful in building their confidence, promoting mutual consultation, liaison, harmony and assistance on other issues related to life. At the governmental level, there is a need to take concrete steps bringing about pleasant changes in the lives of the elderly as a whole. The government should take all possible measures to ensure rights of the older people and senior citizens. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the young generation to take care of the elderly and not let their status, dignity and respect reduce. Parents should be respected to seek their prayers and their heart should not be hurt.