Editorial: Respecting and Understanding Our elderly

International Day of Older Persons was celebrated on Monday with the theme “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions”. It’s a special one for older people and senior citizens around the world.
03 Oct 2018 13:20
Editorial: Respecting and  Understanding  Our elderly
Resident of Golden Age Home in Labasa Peter Sinclair after the march of International Day of Older Persons on October 01, 2018. Photo: Nacanieli Tuilevuka

International Day of Older Persons was celebrated on Monday with the theme “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions”.

It’s a special one for older people and senior citizens around the world.

A United Nation’s report says that there are currently around 700 million people over the age of 60.

It is predicted that by 2050, this figure will have risen to 2 billion.

These figures have prompted a lot of attention and various initiatives have been started to try and address the problems that will arise.

In Fiji the number of older persons, defined as the population aged 60 years of age and over, is projected to grow from about 69,300 in 2010 to 170,500 by 2050. It will almost quadruple.

The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, which released the figures says Fiji’s older population is presently growing by 3000 people per year and this annual growth is expected to remain fairly constant through to 2050.

Traditionally, our culture takes care of their old and elderly who are in need.

But the customary practice is beginning to change.

It is no longer a shame now to place the elderly in homes to be looked after by paid caregivers and volunteers.

This is a foreign practice but it has been adopted increasingly by Fijians as the most practical way to ease the burden of looking after their elderly.

There was a time when many families could survive on the humble income of a sole breadwinner.

This allowed the other spouse to look after the needy elderly at home.

But current economic pressures require that both husband and wife need to get paid employment to live a reasonably comfortable life.

As a result, they have no choice but to put the elderly in homes.

Some couples pay caregivers to come to their homes and look after their elderly.

Whatever they do, the message that came out of this observance day is that the elderly need love and understanding in the way they are treated.

That’s what the Tui Macuata Ratu Wiliame Katonivere  meant when he said too often the ministry had found that Fijians were leaving their parents or grandparents at old age homes or on the streets.

Our elderly have human rights too.

They are entitled to be respected and treated equally.

For those who drift back to the workforce after retiring because of the gift of longevity, they need to be treated with respect and dignity.

We must recognise that our older people had built the Fiji we live in today.

They are our link between the past, today and the future.

Ratu Wiliame says small acts of respect and love will have trickling effects that will cause a ripple of changes to the mindset and behaviour of younger people towards the elderly.

“We must continue to recognise the great contribution older people can make to all of us as we are the living embodiment of our past.”

Ratu Wiliame aptly sums it.

Without them we would not be here today enjoying the fruits of their sacrifice.



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