Sunvoice

Giving Our Elders The Dignity They Deserve In Life

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation struck a raw nerve this week when she revealed relatives of residents at the Golden Age Home in Lautoka no longer visited them.
25 Oct 2014 11:41

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation struck a raw nerve this week when she revealed relatives of residents at the Golden Age Home in Lautoka no longer visited them.

Our elderly citizens now have an invisible use-by date on them. Families who can longer afford to bear the costs of housing their elderly family members dump their fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles at the nearest institution.

It’s a problem not limited to one group or community. The homes run by the Government and faith organisations have residents from all walks of life, creeds and backgrounds. Having said that, we’ve come some way to helping senior citizens live with dignity. In the general elections a few weeks ago, there was a concerted effort by the Fijian Elections Office to ensure the elderly, sick and Fijians with special needs voted at their designated polling stations. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has made it one of his priorities to see tangible benefits reach marginalised members of the community, particularly the poor and the elderly.

However, the Prime Minister needs all the help he can get. Stakeholders, particularly churches need to stop their political posturing and start walking the talk.

We would like to propose a few areas that non-Government stakeholders might consider to invest in over the next year to help alleviate the burden on Government to solve our social problems:

– Matua Programme:  The last time we checked this programme for school leavers was being run at the Nabua Secondary School in Suva. However, it has never really quite taken off.  However, graduates of the programme will forever be thankful for the opportunity to finish Year 12 and 13 (forms six and seven) and even lower forms after dropping out of the system earlier.  Children drop out of schools for all sorts of reasons and it is imperative that ‘second chances’ are given to young people to complete their education.

– Mentoring: Professionals leaving the workforce, particularly in the civil service, at 55-60 years of age still have a lot to give back to Fiji. Some of this is already being done in the context of faith organisations and other corporate bodies. Under the Government’s volunteer programme, some have the opportunity to serve in other parts of the Pacific. However, sustainable vanua or community-based mentoring  programmes need to be developed to address this issue.

Government can also consider reviewing their urban planning templates. Providing more recreational facilities, like parks and volleyball courts in places like the Suva-Nasinu corridor are often underrated social cohesion mechanisms. Rather than keeping the elderly at home, out of sight, bringing them out to meet other senior citizens in a safe urban environment is one way of showing them dignity. They deserve it.

Feedback:  josuat@fijisun.com.fj  

 




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