Productive and successful ageing requires collective efforts from both younger and the older people. Family and society have a crucial to play in the entire process.
The International Day of Older Persons was observed on October 1. The day mainly aims at creating awareness on the issues of aging and instigating actions to enhance health, comforts, and productivity of the older people. This article discusses aspects of aging and how we can make it productive and successful.
Though there are elderly people across the countries in the world, there is not one universally agreed age-based definition of older person—the lower age limit to categorize a person as older varies from a country to country. It mainly depends on socio-economic conditions and life expectancy. This variation is well evidenced in the criterion set for old age allowances and privileges in different countries. Nevertheless, the lower age limit seems to be 60 years on an average. The United Nations too agrees on 60 plus years as the age threshold to refer to the elderly people. The world is experiencing a huge demographic shift, and in the years to come significant portion of its population will be of old age.
Nepal is no exception. The share of the people aged over 60, which is supposed to be almost nine percent or about two and half million at the moment, is expected to double to 18.6 percent in 2050. Increase in the life expectancy is the major factor behind this demographic shift.
Aging is a natural and an inevitable process. Every human being once born, grows, becomes old and dies. Aging well is conceptualized in different frameworks such as healthy aging, positive aging, productive aging, active aging, and successful aging. In 1983, Robert Butler introduced the idea of ‘Productive Aging’ in the United States. This sociological concept broadly refers to multiple activities carried on by old age people for betterment of their health, families, communities and the society. Healthy ageing is linked to social relationship, independence, and life activities. Mentally and physically active lifestyle helps preserve, even increase, the activities and skills of the older persons. The United Nations on December 16, 1991 adopted freedom, participation, care, self-fulfilment and dignity as the basic principles for the older persons. These principles are guidelines to the governments, various organizations and the individuals to design and implement the programs for the older persons. The principles set the framework for the productive and successful aging.
There is a great respect and concern for elderly people in Nepali culture. We consider old age parents as the living God and want to keep them happy. We, therefore, often expect the old-age parents to take rest even though they are capable and enthusiastic to carry out various activities within the family and in the society. This sometimes turns out to be an obstacle in the process of productive ageing. Creating an environment where the elderly people can better utilize their potentials is the key element of productive ageing. We should let them do the works which they can and love to do. This makes them feel needed and accepted by the society. Though they may not need to earn money, the works make them feel emotionally and psychologically independent.
Many of us live in joint families where generally people of three generations live together. It is often seen that older people give support to the family in which they reside. The grandparents take care of grandchildren. Old age women support in kitchen and domestic chores. Moreover, they do many other works such as gardening, cleaning courtyards, walking dogs and so on. The older people in the rural areas are seen also going outside their homes and engage in agricultural activities while the old age people in the urban setting are found mostly confined within their households.
This is fine as long as elderly people do them willingly. They should not be forced but should be encouraged to do the works according to their capacity and health status. The ones who keep themselves busy remain mentally and physically fit.
Along with working within one's own household, stepping out in the society and engaging in some social works or just interacting with the other people is also important for productive aging. The elderly people have rich experience and knowledge and they have a lot to give to the society. We have ample examples of the elderly people being active and contributing to our society. We have the centenarian Satya Mohan Joshi who is actively engaged in the range of productive activities. Working and interacting with the society enhances confidence, self-esteem and physical and mental health of elderly people. Running a mixed club of both the older and the younger people can be effective to promote interaction and exchange of ideas between the two. The positive response from young people gives the older people higher level of satisfaction.
Give them care
Proper care-giving system is an important element of productive aging. There should be a functional system containing health facilities, food, recreation etc for the older persons. The government should give high priority to establishing and strengthening such system. We can see well-equipped old age homes run by the government and even the private sector in many developed countries ensuring proper care of the older persons. The modern old age home may be more relevant in the country like ours where many young people are abroad for employment and education leaving their elderly parents alone back home.
However, the concept of the modern old age home is still in infant stage in our country. We all should work together to establish and effectively run the care-giving system for the older persons. Productive and successful ageing requires collective efforts from both younger and the older people. Family and society have a crucial to play in the entire process.
The whole world is struggling to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Various evidences show the older persons are in higher risk of contracting infection. The fatality rate is substantially high in this age group. So, protecting the older persons from this pandemic should be our foremost responsibility now. Let's strictly adhere to all the prescribed measures against the pandemic and protect ourselves and the older persons.
The author is Lecturer of Sociology at Bhaktapur Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University