The way senior citizens can serve society

Dr Sudershan Kumar
The advancements in health care facilities definitely has resulted into the increasing life span around the globe and the elderly group encompasses a major share in the society. Ageing is inherent to a human being and with it comes, maturity, wisdom and respectability. The senior citizens should be viewed as an asset to the social fabric of any country and the quotation of Pearl S.Buck (1892-1973) rightly portrays:-
“Our Society makes it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for helpless members.”
Nations around the globe often rely on young potential human resource. But ironically, in the process ignore the huge population of senior citizens between the age group 60 to 80, whose services can be tapped for the benefit of public. It is true that the youth of any nation, is strong force in bringing about drastic changes but at the same time, the seniors are the revered members of the society and the goldmine storage of knowledge and experience.

World Senior Citizens Day

Thus it is imperative for us as a nation to understand that senior citizens, who have given their youth in the service of nation have an indispensable role to play for the betterment of society in many ways especially in maintaining peace, tranquility and in spreading the message of brotherhood. Their vast experience can be further utilized for internal security and strengthening the social fabric of society particularly students and youth in general.
Senior citizens themselves should inculcate in themselves the virtues of confidence and self sufficiency and should not feel inferior to any body or feel old or incapable. There is a hidden source of energy which can be tapped for betterment of future generations and for the improvement of society. This section of society is an asset provided their vast resource is properly capitalized. There are a number of ways through which senior citizens can give back to society.
First and foremost is to remain physically and mentally fit with sound health and perfect mental conditions despite the ageing. They should donate their time for regular half an hour exercise, meditation and resorting to balanced diet. If one goes through the Ayurvedic literature, there is definite evidence that half an hour regular exercise will provide sense of ease, improved fitness, easy digestion, ideal body weight and handsomeness of bodily features. This will reduce the medical bill and dependence on others. Secondly and the most important one is changing their role in the family from a family advisor to a family mentor. It is often observed that elders in the family are still possessive about their family.They keep on guiding / advising contrary to wishes of their children. Consequently, the senior citizens encroach the decision making domain of youngsters, especially their married children. This unwarranted advice leads to an internal conflict among the family members. So the elders should act as mentors for family members by sharing their vast experience and knowledge but not the advice. This will go a long way in creating ideal ambience for families. Families are the core of society. Therefore, happy and well knit family leads to betterment of society. Thirdly, help the needy. Many people in society are in need of help and support both in terms of financial and non-financial. Financial means monetary help to the needy and the downtrodden which can be accomplished through donation to NGOs doing social work for elders. Non-financial means teaching guiding young minds and also to act as a bridge between the common masses and authorities. Fourth, the most crucial point is to get one self involved in contributing towards societies. Senior Citizens between the age group of 60 to 80 , who are physically fit can contribute in economic development through part time job with NGOs.
The idea is not for making money but to give back to the society in real terms. Be part of state and non-state institutions and contribute as volunteers for social help. When one examines the global arena concerning ageing one finds that longevity in ageing has increased. As a result the older persons have become greater proportion of the total population. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) there were 200 million over the age 60 in the year 1950. By the year 2000 the number had swollen to 600 million and by 2025 it is estimated to be around one billion. Hence the respective governments and societies have the responsibility for their well being particularly those who are physically incapacitated and cognitively impaired. At the same time the elders, who are well placed in terms of money and health have equal responsibility towards elders between the age group 60 to 80.The issues of senior citizens were tinkering in the mind of the former American President Ronald Reagan to such an extent that on 19th August 1988 he signed the proclamation 5847 to observe 21st August as as a Senior Citizen Day. Since then 21st August is observed around the globe as a senior citizen day. This day provides an opportunity to remind the Government of their promises made to senior citizens and measures which should be taken.
It is the duty of every Government to ensure that senior citizens are able to avail all the state benefits without any hassle. The day also underscores the importance that the senior citizens do not face any kind of difficulty. But when one looks into the Indian scenario we find that there are around 138 millions senior citizens in India. Out of that 71 million are male and 67 million are female. For welfare of the senior citizens the Govt. of India has launched a number of schemes. These schemes are launched in the country to improve the quality of life by providing the elders with basic amenities and rights. Number of schemes launched by Government of India are : Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Scheme, Varishta Medi-claim policy, National old age pension scheme, Rashtriya Vayaoshri Yojana, National Program for Health Care of Elder (NPHCE), Varishtra Pension Bima Yojana etc. Besides for the care of elders, the Government of India has enacted a law in 2007 commonly known as Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MAWPAS). It provides financial security, welfare and protection for senior citizens. It requires children to provide maintenance allowances to parents and Government to provide old age homes and ensure medical care for senior citizens. It also provides speedy procedure for claim of monthly payments for parents and senior citizens.
MAWPAS was also implemented in the erstwhile State of J&K (Now split into two a Union Territory of Jammu – Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh) in the year 2015. Under this Act Diginity Centre for the welfare of senior citizens can be created at district level. Centre for dignity is basically a Day Care and Recreation centre for senior citizens. One such centre was established at Srinagar with the initiative of the then Chief Justice of J&K High Court Gita Mittal, with the support of Judiciary, Health and Social Welfare Department. Divisional commissioner has taken the responsibility for providing necessary infrastructure.
There is urgent need to establish similar centres in each district of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. This centre is basically a platform for arranging interaction between senior and young innovative minds. Through these centres, the services of senior citizens can be utilized in many ways. Notably among them are: – health care, agriculture, for imparting education, in countering the challenges posed by hybrid terrorism providing legal support to the needy and also as a volunteer force for implementation of projects initiated by State and Central Government agencies.
The author definitely propagates the quotation of Norman Vincet “Live Your Life and forget the age”.