Call to ensure dignified life for senior citizens

Kathmandu, February 21

Increasing number of old age homes and care centres shows that more senior citizens are being abandoned and neglected by their families, warns the National Human Rights Commission.

According to the annual report (2019-19) released by the rights body recently, senior citizens are still suffering from socioeconomic, health and family problems. The budget allocated by the government has not reached the target group and there are no effective and concrete policies and programmes towards this end.

“Allocation of grants meant for senior citizens is not transparent, as a result of which the investment made in daycare centres has gone down the drain. Elderly citizens are forced to take refuge in old age homes due to lack of love, care and respect from family,” says the report. Once they are economically, physically and mentally inactive, the trend of taking senior citizens as burden and dumping them in old age homes is increasing. Increasing Influence of modernisation and western culture, and dismantling of ancient tradition and culture is giving way to anomalies.

“In addition to this, the generation gap is widening. Disintegration of joint families and emergence of nuclear families have also added to the woes of senior citizens. They are forced to live an isolated life. With poor mental and physical condition due to old age, serious problems are seen in their care. It has already been late to draw the attention of the stakeholders to protect the human rights of senior citizens,” the report reads.

Despite various constitutional and legal provisions, the situation of senior citizens is not satisfactory. Implementation status of national and international laws is very poor. The NHRC said the recommendations made by it to the government for timely amendments to the Senior Citizen Act and criminalise abandonment of senior citizens, among others, have not been implemented.

A monitoring by the rights body shows that decision of the government to provide 50 per cent concession to the senior citizens in public transport and health facilities have yet to be implemented.

As per the monitoring report, senior citizens are dumped in old age homes for various reasons such as family disputes and disintegration, decline in moral values, lack of awareness and sense of responsibility, inter-generation conflicts, search for solitude and spiritual fulfilment, and voluntary choice. Majority of senior citizens in old age homes are suffering from one or other family, psychological and social problems. Many of them are suffering from various ailments in the old age homes that lack even basic amenities.

“Some positive initiatives are also being taken for the rights of senior citizens, but there are still various challenges ahead. For this, the government should give special emphasis on timely amendments to the related legislation and implementation of the existing constitutional and legal provisions. If the stakeholders carry out their respective roles in an effective manner, the problems will be solved gradually,” NHRC suggested.

There are a total of 87 old age homes in 45 districts, while 22 others are under-construction. The number of daycare centres is 119. Currently, as many as 1,577 senior citizens, including 965 women, are living in old age homes across the country. According to the 2011 census, population of senior citizens constitute 8.13 per cent. Ageing population is found to be increasing by three to 3.5 per cent due lack of basic nutrition, food, hygiene and health services, NHRC said.