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Opinion, Opinion

EDITORIAL-Treat Elderly With Respect And Dignity

EDITORIAL-Treat Elderly With Respect And Dignity
Residents of Samabula Senior Citizens Home and others during World Elder Abuse Awareness Day at Albert Park in Suva on June 15, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar.
June 16
10:00 2017

Yesterday we celebrated World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day.

It is a time to pause and think about the wellbeing of our elderly. In the busy lifestyles we live it can be easy to forget our elderly or  regard them as a burden. In the process, some become victims of abuse.

Ashwin Raj, the director of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, has reminded us that the elderly  in our society are equal in dignity and rights and deserve to live a life free of abuse.

He says older persons have the right to social and economic rights, to remain integrated in society and participate in national development to access social and legal services, and be able to exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in a home, care facility or shelter. These include the right to privacy and the right to make decisions about the quality of their life.

He reiterates that the elderly must be treated fairly regardless of their age and other prohibited grounds of discrimination prescribed under section 26 of the Fijian Constitution.”

We support his call that there is is an urgent need to establish a national helpline to assist the elderly, a policy framework that has legal effect as well as the development of a national plan of action and coordination mechanism to materialise the National Council for Older Persons Act 2012.

Just as  the national helpline has helped our women and children, a dedicated one for the elderly is warranted.

According to Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa, abuse of the elderly is not limited to physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, financial or material abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.

She says perhaps the most insidious form of abuse against the elderly lies in the negative attitude towards, and stereotypes of, older people and the process of ageing itself. These, she adds, are reflected in the frequent glorification of youth.

A general lack of understanding of the needs and challenges of the elderly leads to a negative perception about them.

First and foremost, we must acknowledge and recognise that our elderly are our national treasures because without them we would not be here today.

Many are pioneers in their own right in their respective communities and families. The least we can do is to provide them the opportunity to live the rest of their lives in peace and happiness because we owe it to them.

They deserve the dignity and respect to live and enjoy life just as the rest of us do. Education and public awareness campaigns, as Mrs Vuniwaqa suggests, are important in changing attitudes and perceptions.

The abuse of the elderly should be viewed as evil and wrong. Sometimes it happens in the family. Other times it happens in some institutions where they are cared for.

We do not often talk about it openly or publicly because we simply do not think much about them or take them seriously. Ageing is a normal process and every person will go through it.

Physiological changes take place in the body that causes emotional changes too. Behavioural trends, therefore, change too. We all need to understand this to help us deal with our personal challenges about the elderly. One day we will go through this experience in our own individual twilight years.

If we fail in our duty to look after our elderly, we might face the same problem when we grow old.




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