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October 1 – International Day of Older Persons

As per the decision of the United Nations General Assembly held on 14th December 1990, 1st October is observed as  ‘International Day of Older Persons’ throughout the world.  On the day, the contributions of the senior citizens / older persons are remembered and the problems faced by them and how to sort out the same are discussed.

The older persons have contributed their mite for the progress of the society in which they live, in the fields of education, agriculture, science, law, industry, medicine and so on. They have sacrificed their lives for the improvement of the living conditions of the people. They are still capable of contributing much through their wisdom and experience. This has to be utilised.

Ageing is a natural process.  The aged persons face a lot of problems including isolation, illness, humiliation and so on.   They part of the society and they cannot be isolated or humiliated.

As per statistics, the numbers of aged persons are increasing every year.  The average age has increased from 46 to 68 during the period from 1950 to 2010. Some experts have noted that the average age will increase above 80 by the end of the century. At present there are about 80 crores of people who are aged above 60 years.

In such a situation, the World Health Organisation(WHO) in its Madrid conference in 2002 has adopted certain guidelines how to improve the conditions of the aged persons and make their life better. The Madrid Declaration called upon the nations to ensure the human rights of the aged persons, end the discrimination, insult and crime against them, along with ensuring the right to work and right for a healthy living. They also have the right to be part of framing the policy of the government.

But the sad fact is that many of the countries have not taken any steps to implement the Madrid Declaration. In the name of austerity,  social security measures like pension, gratuity, allowances etc. are either reduced or completely taken away. Of course, the socialist countries like Cuba have taken many important steps for improving the status of the older persons.

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007  passed by the Parliament ensures many safeguards and social security measures for the senior citizens, but it is seldom implemented in many parts of the country. The general situation is that the senior citizens mostly are being ignored and social security measures are not implemented. The conditions of the widows are most pathetic.

A different picture can be seen in Kerala, where the LDF government has implemented a lot of measures for the aged persons. Rs. 1,100 is paid to all those above 60 years as social security pension. Palliative care is ensured for those people who are not able to move.  Senior Citizens’ Councils are formed with representatives of the organisation of the aged persons to address the grievances. The demand has been raised for a separate Department for the senior citizens.

This year also, the International Day of Older Persons will be observed all over the world. Let us dedicate ourselves to ensure that the senior citizens have a respectful and healthy life. Let us remember that the senior  citizens are a great  asset of the society.