After the death of my husband, I distributed all of my tangible and intangible property to my sons. Though I had preferred to stay with the youngest son, I could not live there, as I became the reason of quarrel for the son and daughter-in-law every passing day. I thought I would better live out of the home and one fine day I decided to leave while they were not around, Radhika Devi Singh, 86, (name changed) shared her pangs with The Rising Nepal.
"Now, I have no one to look after me. When I was physically and mentally sound, I used to manage and control all the family members and resources by myself. Until the age of 70, I was very healthy, sound and perfect. The family members would love and care for me too. But, now at 86, when I want somebody to be by my side, to fulfil my demands, to help me move in and out, to get water for me to drink and to take care of me; no one is here. I am totally alone. Everything pampered. I am deserted," shared Singh who is taking shelter at one of the elderly homes in the capital.
This is not the story of Radhika Devi Singh alone, with the advancement in medical science and technology, the life expectancy of the people has increased resulting in a large elderly population. Although the proportion of elderly is increasing both in absolute and proportional number, traditional family norms and values of supporting the elderly are eroding at an alarming rate causing problems for the security of the aged people, particularly above 65 years of age.
Depleting socio-cultural value system, occupational diversification basically agricultural to non-agricultural, higher mobility of economically active persons to towns abroad for job opportunities, and the gradual replacement of the existing joint family system with a nuclear family system have been identified as the causes behind the dismal state of the elderly.
On the other hand, Nepal Government’s social security system is also poor and that has not been able to cover all such elderly groups of the society.
The problems of elderly are growing day by day and they are being compelled to lead a lonely and deserted life due to the irresponsible attitude of the government, non-government organizations and their line agencies.
"Neither the government and the civil society nor the donor agencies give priority to the senior citizens who spent their whole life for the development of the nation," says Prof. Dr. Leela Devi K.C. president of National Senior Citizen Organisation Network, Nepal.
Dr. K.C. said that there were too many dreadful issues and problems of the senior citizens in the country, which were becoming aggravated further with the flow of time.
Although the ageing population is given top priority worldwide, plans and programme to address the problems of this feeble population are glaringly lacking in our part of the world and especially our own country.. The older population is increasing both in terms of absolute numbers and as a proportion of the total population, however, traditional family norms and values of supporting the elderly are waning.
Dr. K.C. says that if the government does not take any measure to mitigate the problems of senior citizens at the moment and ensure that their basic necessities are treated as the fundamental rights in the new constitution, the nation would have to face a lot of problems.
Prem Prasad Upreti, officer secretary at the Centre of Services for Helpless, says that it was high time to address the issues and problems of the senior citizens as the nation was going to draft a new constitution. He said though the government has provided some of the social security services, the senior citizens were deprived of such facilities. The official procedures performed by the government officials asking the elderly to present the citizenship certificate and migration letter has resulted in additional problems for them. "They often demand for the documents but many senior citizens living in such old age homes do not have citizenship and migration letter," he says.
He says that it was not the problem in the town only, the senior citizens hailing from the rural areas and are destitute have more painful stories to share. He says the number of senior citizen coming in search of shelter was increasing in the town.
Though the number of senior citizen coming to the shelter homes is increasing day by day, such home also lack proper management, care giving training and rehabilitation facilities.
Manohar Upreti, an advocate, says that besides this, the case of abuse of senior citizens was another big problem they were facing. The quarrel among the sons, domestic violence and poverty has played a very crucial role in pushing the senior citizens into a life of grief and pain. He says that in the absence of appropriate laws and their proper implementation, the senior citizens were bound to live a life of an animal even in their own home.
Upreti said that the government should increase access for elderly persons to basic rights and facilities (food, shelter, clothes, education and health) at home and in the society improving quality of services with simple procedures for elderly people with an effective implementation of government plan and policies.
He also says that the pilot ageing education should be incorporated in the schools to minimise generation gaps- mainstreaming ageing issues as children and youth could play instrumental roles to respect elderly people as grandparents and think-tank of the society, as in the traditional societies.
Despite this, the elderly people are more vulnerable to disease and need more care. They are prone to the diseases like alzheimer, dementia, ocular disorders, ENT, orthopedic, blood pressure, asthma, diabetes etc. but the ironically they are deprived even from general regular check ups.
Until recently very little attention was paid particularly in developing countries like Nepal about the dynamics of ageing in human beings. However, the continued increase in percentage of elderly people in the population is creating humanitarian, social and economic problems.
Though, the increase in the population of elderly in Nepal is not so rapid as compared to the developed countries (as high as 13%), it indicates the starting of the ageing dynamics in Nepal, which will have adverse effects on the Nepalese social structure and economy in the long run.
Against this backdrop, the problem of taking care and providing necessary goods and services to those elderly groups has to be increased and the policies and measures to address their problems should be taken immediately.