WE believe that whoever would write off a nation that doesn’t cherish its elderly citizens as utterly thankless wouldn’t risk being branded an exaggerator. For the segment of people in that category are generally considered to be a repository of wisdom, onto which younger generation members regularly tap.
It is commonplace for elders to be pace-setters on crucial matters like good manners, acting as arbitrators in family disputes, and in coordinating marriage rituals. During the young adulthood phase of their lives, many of them played a praiseworthy role as part of the nation-building brigades.
Awarding a distinction to Tanzania on its handling of senior citizens would be as much an exaggeration, as rating it as an outright failure would be grossly unfair. At family level, quite many younger people, including low-income earners, strive to care for elderly parents, grandparents and broader family members.
But not all is well. This is a bitter reality that the government acknowledges and is striving to address. One of the manifestations is inclusion of ‘the elderly’ component in a ministry that also covers health, community development, gender and children.
Issues related to them are now drawing attention more glaringly and faster, covering aspects like social security funds, medical treatment, and exemption from property tax.
A bigger eye should be cast on the plight of those in centres for the needy, though, where the coalition between body and soul is facilitated by basics like food and accommodation, donated by people of goodwill, plus words of encouragement.
The centres are under-funded due to the myriad competiting demands for a share of the meagre government revenue. Consequently, the hapless old men and women they host are a largely miserable lot.
Bukumbi in Mwanza Region’s Misungwi District, is a microcosm. At a function where DC Juma Sweda delivered to them Idd-el-Fitr-related gifts from President Magufuli recently, they expressed gratitude, but lamented they missed televised presidential functions due to their set being defective.
It turned out that it didn’t have a decoder, which a local leader pledged to provide soon, and therefore restore a facility that cheers them up considerably. Creation of a special fund into which all income earners would contribute, would uplift old people’s centres, and more significantly, their spirits.
Their happiness would be converted into blessings that would rub off the contributors. It’s a proposal worth pondering, since, essentially, we have a culture of cherishing the grand old papas and mamas.