PESHAWAR: The social welfare department has chalked out a plan to implement a law passed by the provincial assembly six years ago to provide certain privileges to 3.5 million senior citizens.

Official sources told Dawn that no pragmatic step had been taken to enforce the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Citizens Act, 2014.They said the department had proposed several schemes for the development of senior citizens during the preparation of the annual development programme but they all were dropped by the planning and development department.

The sources said the social welfare department having a lead role had developed the Strategic Plan 2020 to implement the Senior Citizens Act in consultation with the relevant departments.

According to them, the plan offers a framework to the social welfare department and other departments to work together for the effective implementation of that law.

PA had legislated six years ago to cater for needs of 3.5m elderly people

The officials said the country had shown great improvement in the average life expectancy from 1960 to 2018.

According to the World Bank data, the average life expectancy in Pakistan was 45.3 years in 1960 but now, it stands at 68.1 years.

The National Census of Pakistan, 2017, reveals that more than 3.5 million elderly people live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They face numerous challenges, including poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, age-related diseases, violence, and lack of avenues for support and positive engagement.

The plan states the provincial government has to provide elderly people with the Senior Citizen Cards under Section 9(2) of the Act and privileges, including concession in medical and medicine charges, separate counters and medical wards in hospitals, financial support, free entry to museums, libraries, parks and recreation facilities under Section 9(3) of the law.

Based on the privileges mentioned in Section 9(3) of the Act for the elderly people, the plan identifies four main strategic areas, including printing and issuance of Senior Citizen Card, healthcare, financial support and social well-being, and two crosscutting areas, including research and documentation, and affordable transportation.

The officials in the social welfare department told Dawn that under the strategic plan, efforts would be made with the help of the health department to provide senior citizens with free medicines, 80 per cent concession in fee of X-ray, MRI, CT Scan, ultrasound and other diagnostic tests, and 50 per cent discount in fee of admission to private rooms of hospitals.

The strategic plan reveals that the local government department will be requested to extend concession in transportation charges to the elderly people at provincial and local levels, while the PIA and Pakistan Railways will be approached to minimise the age bracket for the elderly from 65 years and above to 60 years for fare concession and increase concession package.

According to it, the department will request the railways for seat reservation and fare concession in all categories for senior citizens. Also, private transport companies offering Category D services like Daewoo and Niazi Express will be approached for 50 per cent concession in charges for the elderly as suggested the Regional Transport Authority.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2020