30 September, 2020
On the threshold of the 30th anniversary of the International Day of the Older Persons celebrated annually on 1st October, the world is still struggling to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic. The UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres has mentioned, ‘The pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries’. And hence, this year The International Day of the Older Persons takes special significance.
Social connect is one of the most important aspects that keep the older population going. However, with them being a vulnerable category, there is no way that they can carry on with their normal social activities. Hence, there is a lot of strain, anxiety, depression, and fear that creeps in. These, along with the other regular health issues, can cause a lot of strain of the normal lives of the older people.
This is why we need such awareness days that will bring to forth the need to take special care of our older population. A little effort, few focused initiatives, a helping hand here and there, a call, a message, perhaps a social distancing visit, etc. can bring about a marked difference in the lives of the older people. It is the collective duty of the society and the government to ensure that such days are observed with a true commitment, with sustainable and inclusive initiatives to ensure that older people feel safe and loved.
This year the theme for this day aims at informing people about the objectives for the decade of the healthy ageing initiative. 2020-2030 is what is being observed as the decade of healthy ageing. This will aim to bring together UN experts, civil society, government and the health professions, to arrive at five strategic objectives, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Programs will be initiated to raise awareness about the special health needs of older people. Not just that, awareness will be created about the appreciating the health workers involved in maintaining the health of older people, especially those in the nursing profession. Coincidentally, 2020 has also been recognized as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. Perhaps, this profession takes on greater significance, especially for the older population, in the middle of a pandemic. Keeping them safe, or taking care of them if they become infected becomes a huge challenge, especially if they are immobile, are suffering from diseases like dementia, etc. So, perhaps, this was the right year to celebrate and appreciate this profession.
Besides, going with the “Leave no one behind” policy of the UN, proposals will be presented to ensure that the health disparity between the developed and developing countries will be reduced. It goes without saying that special emphasis will be given to the COVID-19 effect on older persons, to counter it effectively.
The 2019 world older population (above 65 years) is estimated at 703 million people; however, this is likely to touch 1.5 billion people by 2050. This is the basis on which such initiatives have been identified the world over to identify the needs and put them into action. Considering the pandemic, a virtual event is going to be held on 1st Oct 2020, from 9 a.m. t0 12.p.m, New York time, Organized by the NGO Committee on Ageing (New York), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the UN, in collaboration with the Group of Friends of Older Persons.
As compared to many other parts of the world, the family concept is very strong in India, and hence many elders are residing with their near and dear ones. This is a very positive aspect of our country as they get the required support and care. This does not mean that elder abuse is not a reality and all of us need to keep an eye out for any such issues and ensure that it does not happen. It is also observed that many among the older population are reluctant to openly talk about their needs and issues, as they feel they do not want to burden the people around. It is important to create this awareness among older people as well as their caregivers to keep the communication going.
However, there are many whose children have migrated to other countries and may be dependent on the caregivers and extended family members. It is this need that gave birth to Samarth and their diverse care packages cater to every need of the elderly. The intention is to ensure a life of dignity and care to those who need it the most, and it is done professionally by employing trained professionals.
Perhaps, with such dedicated initiatives, we can make our society a much more inclusive place for the elderly. It is important to talk about this day, create awareness, and celebrate it if only to ensure that society appreciates the contribution of such people. Let’s hope we can indeed create a society wherein the decade of healthy ageing is made possible, that health needs, both physical and mental are met, and the young and the old co-exist and thrive from each other.
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