KARACHI: Regretting vanishing family values and lack of support for the elderly in society, speakers at a programme held at the Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery on Saturday called upon the government to implement the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act.
The official apathy, it was pointed out, could be gauged from the fact that not a single meeting of the council formed under the act had been held since the passing of the act in 2016.
The event was organised by AKU nursing and midwifery school in collaboration with the VCARE Social Welfare Society to mark the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Youth asked to give due care and respect to their elders
The proceedings started with stage performances titled Umeed-i-Sehar highlighting how the elderly were being deprived of the right to enjoy life and abused not only in the confines of their homes, but even at such places as hospitals where the staff generally were insensitive to their physical and mental limitations.
They also conveyed some important messages, for instance, people physically and mentally fit should not be retired completely from their job once they hit 60 and that the elderly needed quality healthcare.
Speaking as the chief guest, Farzana Burney, the chairperson of the Human Rights Standing Committee of the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that this subject was important but also very complex that it was hard to talk about all its various aspects in a limited time.
Ms Burney was very critical of the young generation who, she said, was not giving due care and respect to their elders despite their sacrifices that they rendered for their children’s progress and prosperity in life.
“Why is the number of shelter homes increasing? If you visit one such place, you would find 90 per cent of inmates are just waiting to see their children,” she said.
Many parents were left in these shelter homes by their children on the promise that they would return soon to take them back to their home but this was not the case, she added.
She also regretted that society and the government offered help to the elderly and there was no support system.
She also objected to the decision often made by senior citizens of distributing their financial assets among their children and said most of them spent a miserable life as children subjected them to all kinds of abuse.
During the panel discussion, participants shared the concern that the young generation had moved away from social and cultural norms as they spent more time on their mobile phones than with their families.
Advocate Qazi Ayazuddin lamented that the government took too long to bring a law on senior citizens (the first law on the subject was passed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly in 2014 and later by the Sindh government in 2016) and when it finally got it passed, the law wasn’t being implemented (in Sindh).
“There is a need to create awareness as well as to sensitive and educate society, particularly the youth, about senior citizens’ rights,” said Waqas Ashfaq Qureshi of HelpAge International.
Media person Imran Wahid Khan was of the opinion the issue of rights and duties couldn’t be solved unless one sought guidance from the Quran and followed it with the true spirit.
Dr David Arthur, the Dean of AKU’s school of Nursing and Midwifery, spoke about his experience in his home country Australia and said that research showed that the elderly required multi-disciplinary support.
The discussion was followed by a question-answer session during which Syed Khurshid, representing the Elderly and Youth Welfare Organisation, talked about official delays in getting the law on senior citizens passed and then making it part of the gazette notification.
“Still, there is no section officer whom one can access and put up the case,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2019