By Sobia Kazim
Growing old is an inevitable phenomenon. Seeing German senior citizens enjoying their lives at its best reminds me of Pakistani senior citizens and their thought-provoking circumstances.
Aging brings numerous societal, psychological and physical problems. Insufficient pension, debilitated filial sustenance, and misconduct within families add up to the economic desolation and solitude for these Pakistani senior citizens. Few private institutions are heading up to take care of these forsaken and mistreated aged citizens. Yet the absence of state-subsidized security sectors generates to additional problems.
World organizations have accentuated aging as one of the most noteworthy issue for the present century. According to United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) report, one in every five people in the world will be over the age of 60 in 2030. While estimated on the basis of Pakistan’s Census report 1998, the elderly population of Pakistan will reach up to 23.7 million by 2030. Conferring to the reports of UNPF, the number of Pakistanis above 60 years was 11.3 million in 2012 which will rise to 43.3 million till 2050.
There is dire need to advance the policies for this unaddressed segment of society. For instance, the Senior citizens’ welfare Bill which is waiting to be passed in parliament since 2007, should be considered. Every year, senior citizens are observed demanding medical allowances, adequate rise in pensions, preferential treatment rights in hospitals and other sectors, but all in vain.
Else, this overwhelming demographic shift will put additional agonizing pressure on the poor families who are already striving tirelessly to earn their day-to-day livelihood. Whereas Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has previously specified a verdict against the formation of welfare homes for elders in an Islamic society stating it a sacred obligation of children to serve their elders. CII also added that families with little economic sources should be supported by the state. Nonetheless, these measures suggested by CII also seem overlooked by the state till date.
Now let’s have an overview that how German state and society care for their senior citizens. Germany’s demographics are advancing dramatically more than any other European country, according to the report of Federal Statistical Office Germany 2015, up to a quarter of Germans are 60 years or above. Which will raise more than a third in 2050 (credit goes to better living conditions and baby boom generation in 1960’s). 65+ couples of this 1960’s generation are married, with sufficiently high purchasing power compared to most of EU countries, receive a standard pension, the majority of them enjoys overall fitness, while fewer than 25% of these senior citizens remark of not being able to get along with their old normal routine. Making 100 years of age is certainly astounding but by the end of 2014, around 17,000 people crossed their 100 years or above. However, 10% of old people keep working as volunteers even after the age of 67 (retirement age in Germany, if born after 1963).
In Germany, society, and state both play a significant role to provide best possible facilities to old people. They independently shop, travel and do fun activities with other senior mates or volunteers.
Further, a state-based project named ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT) is introduced. It is based on internet-connected sensor technologies to support elders living independently at their homes.
This platform can efficiently monitor a person’s health, medical needs, emergency in real time. Total investment for the project is around 2.9 million Euros. This is called the way to invest in a healthier society. Coming from Pakistani family setup, we usually assume that western family lives are gloomy, isolated and miserable. But we are wrong in labeling them deprived and solitary citizens. They enjoy diverse but good family connections. They at least have the freedom to choose for them without being objected to the age. They can choose their dwellings without being questioned.
One another example of their unrestricted life is the inauguration of a project named ‘Active Oldies living together’ where the elder ladies decided to form a community; living in different apartments but in the same building. Because they considered the fact that living nearby their friends instead of children or old families will give them the opportunity to live their lives independently even after retirement. They can go out, watch movies, exercise, quickly see one another when sick. To illuminate, this was a community-based idea which was highly appreciated by the elders and was later supported on a larger scale.
If compared to Pakistani senior citizens, unfortunately, governmental and societal conduct is quiet lamenting towards them. Not going into detail but just think how feasible our roads, shopping malls, buses, trains are for their daily movement? Does it even consider alternative means to staircases for elders? While these should have been very rudimentary and considerable thoughts.
Except for financial needs, they also need to be accompanied, laughed and empathized rather than being restricted as house-keeper or baby-sitters as generally done in our society without realizing their emotional and mental state. We do this to the ones who were once the stalwart backbone of the family but now have been bowed dependents for their simplest things.
Regrettably, most of us never realize the worth of freedom which our home occupied elders can only dream of. How can these selfless soles be abandoned? Why we begin to see the outer shells of their personalities.
However, the pondering point of this article is not to promote old houses or aging community movement. But to a thought that we can utilize the skills of these marginalized, vulnerable citizens in several developmental and nation-building causes.
We need to find a better attitude or at least to follow examples of civilized civilizations of not dealing elderly people with alienation and indifferent attitude. Respecting our elders is the exquisiteness element of our religion so we better to keep this value alive. No fixed rules, but freedom and rightful existence in society is the key to happiness.
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