TOPICS: Plight of the elderly

Nepal has carried the legacy of respect to elders since ancient times. The tradition of looking after old parents has been passed down from generation to generation.

Caring for elderly people is a cherished ideal in Hindu families of the country. Different ethnic groups cherish ageing of people in different ways.

In Newar culture “Bhim Ratharohan” is celebrated when elderly people reach the age of seventy years, seven months, seven days, seven hours, seven minutes and seven seconds. The second ceremony is performed at the age of eight-four years and the third at the age of ninety years.

This evidence shows how Nepalese people have harnessed the culture of respect and dignity for elderly people from the very past. Sadly, things have been changing today. The societal values and norms that respect old people are gradually eroding.

The reason for this is changing environment, desire for nuclear family, poverty and particularly the influence of Western culture. Besides these, the trend of young families migrating abroad means that old parents are left behind with no one to look after them. In the recent period the number of elderly people has increased .The quality of medical and health services has increased life expectancy of Nepalese people to 71 years.

Similarly the decreased fertility and mortality rates due to awareness among the younger people are certainly increasing the number of the elderly people, which means their population will be more in the future.

With diminishing societal values many senior citizens are abandoned by their offspring every year. Some of them are lucky to find old-age homes and shelters while others spend the rest of their life in the streets.

Thank to our so called educated and modernized society which became so individualistic that whom they considered gods once has become a burden for them now. Though several organizations work for senior citizens, the  results have not improved remarkably.

The situation of senior citizens in Nepal is very poor compared to other South Asian countries (Global Age Watch, 2013). Nepal stands at 77th position, out of 91 countries. Senior Citizen Act 2063 clearly says that to take good care of old people is the responsibility of family and relatives.

However, provisions to punish those who don’t bear these responsibilities are not clear. Government should create the environment where no parents are kicked out by their family and relatives.