Monday, 24 June, 2024, Reg No- 06
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Elderly people could bring challenges, opportunities  

Published : Monday, 20 May, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 470

Elderly people could bring challenges, opportunities  

Elderly people could bring challenges, opportunities  

Bangladeshs remarkable economic and social progress is accompanied by a demographic shift with profound implications for the future - a rapidly ageing population. This "silver tsunami," as its sometimes referred to, necessitates a closer look at the existing systems for old age care and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Ensuring the well-being and security of senior citizens requires a multi-pronged approach beyond simply providing necessities. It involves strengthening families, fostering social support systems, exploring innovative solutions tailored to the Bangladeshi context, and fundamentally shifting societal attitudes towards ageing.

Driven by increased life expectancy due to improved healthcare and declining fertility rates, Bangladeshs elderly population is projected to grow significantly in the coming decades. This demographic shift presents both challenges and opportunities.

On the one hand, it represents a growing pool of experience and wisdom that can contribute to national development. However, it also strains traditional support systems and necessitates a paradigm shift in how Bangladesh approaches old-age care.

Traditionally, the responsibility of caring for elderly parents has fallen on adult children within the extended family system. However, social and economic changes are challenging the viability of this model. Rapid urbanisation has drawn young people to urban centres for work, leading to a decline in the prevalence of multi-generational households.

Nuclear families with working parents may struggle to provide the time and resources required for adequate care of their elderly dependents. Furthermore, the growing participation of women in the workforce creates a situation where there may only sometimes be a daughter or daughter-in-law available to take on primary care giving responsibilities.

The absence of a robust social safety net and adequate support systems can leave some elderly individuals vulnerable to neglect, abuse, and social isolation. Financial insecurity is a significant concern, particularly for those lacking formal pensions or savings.

Limited access to healthcare services can exacerbate existing health conditions and compromise their well-being. Social isolation, often a consequence of reduced mobility and dwindling social networks, can lead to loneliness and depression, posing a significant threat to their mental health.

Ensuring the well-being of Bangladeshs elderly population requires a multi-faceted approach. Strengthening families and communities remains crucial. Promoting intergenerational dialogue and fostering a culture of respect for elders is essential in breaking down stereotypes and reframing ageing as a natural part of life.

Beyond providing primary care, a crucial aspect of addressing the challenges of old age care lies in redefining our societal perception of ageing. Senior citizens possess a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be invaluable in various aspects of society.

Promoting opportunities for continued learning, volunteer work, and intergenerational collaboration can tap into this potential and allow them to remain active and engaged contributors to their communities.

Skills development programs for older adults can equip them with the tools to navigate the digital world and access online resources, fostering greater independence and reducing social isolation.

Ultimately, addressing the challenges of old-age care is a shared responsibility. Families, communities, the government, the private sector, and NGOs all have a role to play in creating a supportive ecosystem where elderly citizens can live with dignity, security, and a sense of purpose.

By acknowledging the demographic shift, fostering a culture of respect and inclusivity, and investing in innovative solutions, Bangladesh can ensure that its senior population enjoys a fulfilling later life and contributes meaningfully to the nations social and economic fabric. This honours their past contributions and paves the way for a more inclusive and age-friendly society that benefits all generations.

The journey towards a more robust system for old-age care in Bangladesh will be challenging. Cultural resistance to alternative care models, financial constraints, and ensuring the quality and affordability of care services are just some of the hurdles that need to be overcome.

Furthermore, adapting care models to cater to the diverse needs of the elderly population, particularly those residing in rural areas with limited resources, requires careful consideration. Community mobilisation and partnerships between government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector can ensure equitable access to care services for all senior citizens, regardless of their location or socioeconomic background.

The success of this endeavour hinges on a long-term vision, a commitment to continuous improvement, and a willingness to learn from best practices around the world while adapting them to Bangladeshs unique cultural and social context.

The writer is a researcher and development worker

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