World reminded ‘senior citizens’ deserve special care

THIS year’s International Day for Older persons was celebrated with pomp and fanfare as people of all walks of life participated in events during the run up to the climax of the Elderly Day.

Students, people in some constituencies, private and public institutions organized events, which include workshops, sports bonanza, and visits, on different occasions, to show love to the elderly during the week to celebrate October 01, their international day.

They were exceptional events lined-up probably in response to growing global concerns that members of society, many families, and young people still isolate their aged parents despite calls to care for them. Neglect or being abandoned without any care, abuse by rudeness or beating the elderly- normally blamed for superstition, and insufficient/lack of respect on streets and public offices are issues that still face the aged persons in the country.

“These unacceptable actions against the elderly must stop. The government has been doing the best for the senior citizens, equally members of the community and families should do the same,” government leaders led by the Minister responsible for the elderly, Ms Maudline Cyrus Castico were heard saying during the ‘elderly week.’

The theme of the 2019 UN International Day of Older Persons “The Journey to Age Equality” focuses on pathways of coping with existing and preventing future old age inequality. It is aligned with: The rights based Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 2030 agenda.

SDG Goal 10, sets to reduce inequality within and among countries and aims to “ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome,” including through measures to eliminate discrimination, and to “empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic and other status.”

WHO between 2015 and 2030, the number of people aged 60 and over is expected to increase from 901 million to 1.4 billion. Inequality does not only negatively impact societal participation; it does also limit economic growth and strain social cohesion.

The 2019 theme will explore levers to cope with demographic and other societal and structural change and to change the narrative of “old Age”. Identified sub themes are: the care sector, as contributor of decent work; lifelong learning and proactive and adaptive labour policies; universal health coverage and other social protective measures.

At the bonanza with different sports entertainments for the elderly enjoyed different sports entertainments like jogging as the deputy Minister for Labour, Empowerment, Elderly, Children and Women development Ms Shadya Mohamed Said, told the audience that it is high time “We encourage senior citizens to exercise frequently to keep the body healthy.”

She joined Mr Ameir Ali Ameir-director ‘elders’ welfare protection association’ to say “We should love our aged parents. We have organised sports bonanza to show them respect and love.” The senior citizens enjoyed different entertainments include football, bao, and chasing hen.

Students and members from Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) ruling party also organised gatherings to honour elderly, as they promoted and spread the message of love to them as the best way to build a respected society. At a gathering to celebrate the elderly Day, the Minister Castico promised to continue implementing better planning and policy that favours senior citizens and to safeguard the aged parents in the country.

Ms Castico who spoke at the event on behalf of President Ali Mohamed Shein who was supposed to be guest of honour said “All government plans regarding the elderly aim at making Zanzibar the best place for the aged persons.”

She said the efforts are included in the ‘vision 2020 (under revision)’, poverty reduction strategy plans (MKUZA), and other national plans, “We ask all people to support these plans for smooth implementation so that all senior citizens can live peacefully.”

The minister said that the government is committed to continue funding the elderly care centres at Sebleni (currently with 32 elders) and Welezo (32) in Unguja, and Limbani (eight) Pemba Island. The elderly are provided with basic needs which include food, shelter, clothing, medical care and living allowance.

“Let us join hands in caring for our aged parents. Do not isolate them, they need love,” Castico said as ‘Mzee’ Khamis Haji Mkasaba from the ‘Elderly Association of Zanzibar’ (Jumuiya ya Wazee- JUWAZA) thanked the government for the continued support, but prayed to be included in decision making bodies.

Mr Mkasaba urged young people to visit elders frequently as the best way to keep them close to family. He said it is likely that majority people, particularly the young; it takes them long time and years to share a sit or meal with elderly. Many people are so busy with day-to-day schedules that taking time off work to be with their aging parents is difficult, and therefore isolation, loneliness, and boredom are the most common issues among elderly people.

Psychologists and some writers argue that even when you employ the services of a caregiver to take care of your aging parent, there is still the possibility of lack of satisfaction, excitement, or fun. They advice to stay closer to the aging parents and ensure that they get enough care because “Our senior citizens are the pillars of our communities and have a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experience that can benefit society.”

Zanzibar as a country is already recognized internationally for its initiatives to make the living condition for the senior citizens better, with President Shein personally winning praise with some organisations like ‘HelpAge International’ admiring the changes.

The elderly here are now being provided with a special Identification Card (ID) that will enable each old person to easily access most of the services free-of charge: public transport, health centres, market, and Banks among other so that they are served promptly with respect.

Supporting the elderly here started in 1960s when the first President late Abeid Amani Karume established elderly care centres where older persons without family support, are placed and looked by the government.

But the care received an admirable boost in 2016 when the incumbent president introduced Universal Pension Scheme (UPS) for senior citizens, and improved the homes: fencing, transportation to/ from hospitals, leisure visits, and meals.

Under the UPS, elderly are paid 20,000/=every month, but the President Shein has promised to review the amount with the aim of increasing, properly doubling the payment given to every citizen at the age of 70 or older. In a meeting with Dr Shein, the enthusiastic older persons thanked the government for considering their request.

The Zanzibar Universal Pension Scheme (UPS) launched in April 2016, as a non-contributory, universal scheme is the first of its kind in East Africa region. The President has promised that the universal pension fund would be backed by law, already on-course, at respective decision making bodies in the government before it is presented in the House of Representative for endorsement.

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