Helping senior citizens

| Updated: October 23, 2017 08:31:49

Helping senior citizens

Old people were not old in the past: they were young and strong. Over time they grew old. Growing in age is a natural phenomenon. When people grow old and cross a threshold level, say 65 years or more, they feel weak physically and mentally. In that age, most people go out of work, pass time idly, mix with neighbours and dear and near ones only. They no more receive many phone calls; the people who used to call them in the past stop doing so. These people, to an extent, become useless in the eyes of society in terms of work. The cash flows to them stop; they depend on past savings or contribution of the family members. 
On the other hand, the aged are to spend more money on food and medicines. They are to visit physicians more often than before. At times, they need hospitalisation which costs them dearly. The old people find it hard to meet their hospital bills. Hospitals take advantage of their helplessness. It is often alleged by relatives of the old people that hospitals make unbelievably high bills for their treatment. If they face sickness and other old-age complications, the hospital authorities prefer to send them to intensive care units (ICUs) which cost them heavily. 
The poor old people cannot simply think of getting any treatment from private hospitals. Public hospitals are open for them but with no treatment. These people are to go without specialists' care. They suffer from old-age agony in silence. Even many old people are virtually prisoners in their own homes as, in most cases, other members of the family consider them as burden. Old-age shelter homes can be an option, but it's not free. Poor old people cannot afford what is generally charged by these facilities. For them, living becomes miserable and they are to remain in that condition till they die. 
But once these old people built up the whole family and did many extra works, sacrificing their leisure, just to keep wheels of their family running. No proper social security system is there in the country now. No one from the authorities talks about it. On the other hand, more and more old people are becoming helpless and some even turn destitute after being neglected or thrown out of the homes by their family members. 
The government, as it is publicly committed to the cause of welfare of the old people, should do something for them as it is doing in the case of women and other disadvantaged groups. 
We see many old people on the streets walking with the help of sticks or someone else. Mostly they are also seen in mosques and medicine shops. They have a host of problems, both physical and mental. They take a deep sigh when they receive ill treatment from the family members whom they supported when they were in work. 
The government perhaps cannot do everything for all the old people except directing public hospitals to treat them free. Bus and train travels could be made free for them. But for some of them who have just retired from jobs or small businesses, the government can do something in the way of paying them some extra money in the form of a little more interest from savings certificates. These people have money - though not much - but they do not know where to invest. For them, the preferred scheme is the government's saving instruments which pay interest or profit quarterly or annually. Monthly payment of interest could also be arranged. For them, stock market is not a suitable place to risk their money with. The savings schemes of the government are perhaps the better option for them. 
The government can also help them by setting up more shelter homes. These homes can be under the private sector as well as under a public-private scheme. Some sort of incentives from the government will help this type of shelter homes coming up. The old people need care which, to an extent, the well-organised shelter homes can provide. 
Another way the government can help old or senior citizens is that it can raise tax-free personal income level up to Tk 5,00,000 from the existing Tk 3,00,000. 
Finally, though many homes have unfortunately turned bitter to them, still old people would prefer to live and die in their own houses. The government can play a major role in making the senior citizens' life a bit comfortable until their last breath. 
The writer is Professor of Economics University of Dhaka. 
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