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The plight of the elderly in Sri Lanka

by Anton Fernando

(December 29, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Very often, children forget what their parents have done for them over the years. Parents give their children a good education to face the world and have them happily married. Even after marriage, they look after the grandchildren, feed them, educate them and see them grow into adulthood. If they are lucky, they might even see their grandchildren married. There is no end to the duties of parents in caring and protecting children and grandchildren.

However, it is sad to note that children forget all what the parents did for them to make them useful young men and women in society and also a success in life. In spite of all these some children neglect their parents when they are old. Some times they conveniently put them in Homes instead of caring for them in their old age.

Some children go abroad leaving them in Elders’ Homes and visit them once in two years or so. Some children abandon their parents altogether and leave them to languish in Homes that do not care for them properly. It is true they spend money to keep their parents in these Homes. But what they do not understand is that parents when they are old, yearn for love and warmth and wish to spend the evening of their lives among their children and grand children.

There are however instances when children resident abroad made arrangements for their parents to either live with them or have a holiday abroad. I am aware of one instance where the children living abroad take their 85 year-old mother on a wheelchair to various countries for a holiday.

The elders in this country are very often neglected. For one thing there aren’t sufficient Homes to accommodate them at reasonable prices, and even if such places are available many of them do not provide the love and warmth that these people yearn for. This is where religion and religious organisations and schools have a part to play. Schools, places of religious worship should first of all instill in the minds of children about their duty to look after the elderly, especially their parents in their old age. Religious organisations, may be, with public assistance, state assistance or donor funds should set up institutions where the elderly could seek solace.

The Government passed The Elders’ Act in 2002 to give some protection and dignity to elders. Under this Act, parents are legally entitled to complain to the Elders’ Council if they are not maintained by their children. However, this law is not properly implemented partly due to lack of funds. The State also does not give sufficient support to Homes for Elders except those run by the State.

Some Homes run by private institutions find it difficult to exist because of the rising cost of living especially the high cost of electricity and other utility charges. Recently, one home with 25 inmates was called upon to pay Rs.88, 000 as electricity charges for the month without even realising the service rendered by them to the elderly.

It is time the State, corporate bodies and banks get together and run Elders’ Homes and provide facilities for senior citizens especially due to the fact that Sri Lanka has an ageing population.

On a personal note, I feel guilty that I have not done enough for my parents. They were not in need and their necessities were looked after, but the other members of my family and I failed to give them an extra bit of luxury before their demise.

It is stated in the Bible that children who look after their parents will have long life and receive many blessings from the Lord.

In this world where life has become a rat race, I hope the younger generation will spare some thought for their parents.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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