The United Nations has sought to bring awareness to issues affecting mankind globally and June 15 was identified by that body as “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day”.
Elder neglect and abuse are increasing in the modern construct of families, converse to traditional norms of most societies. Every family configuration in Guyana evolved from strong structures where elders were respected members of the family; their advice integral to preserving family values and traditions. However, in the modern family configuration, older family members are sent to nursing homes where they live out their lives. Some are pining for the company and the familiarity of home and family; or they are left to fend for themselves, with no help proffered by their children.
An example of such loneliness is the case of a grandmother who decided to take her own life. According to news reports, the grandmother had been living in the upper flat of her own home while relatives occupied the lower apartment – rent-free.
Neighbours revealed that she had been eking out an existence off the Government pension, which had apparently not been enough to pay her bills and provide her with sustenance for survival. After paying her utilities she was not left with sufficient funds to purchase enough groceries on which to subsist; so hunger drove her to take credit from the grocery store, which, of course, left her in debt that she could not repay. Caught in a vicious cycle of financial straits from which she could not extricate herself, in desperation she ended her life.
With rare exceptions to the general norm, this current generation seems to think that the elderly are disposable commodities, only for use as convenient babysitters, without being accorded any status of respect or care as an elderly family member.
It is absolutely heart-breaking for a child to sit down at a laden table without considering that the mother who provided the wherewithal for his/her every need until he/she could fend for him or herself, is going hungry – to the extent where she decides that death is preferable to slow starvation, and loss of dignity through having to credit basic foodstuff in desperation, in full knowledge that she most likely would not be able to pay for the items.
Recently, a former educator, a nonagenarian, was raped and beaten in her dilapidated home, where she was subsisting without electricity and other necessary amenities.
Guyana Times reported, on Saturday last, that a man was stabbed to death by his brother after hitting his mother.
Religious leaders should be pivots around which communities circumnavigate their social dynamics – and elders, single parents and children should be under community watch at all times. It was the way of all our cultures; but, sadly, we all seem to have lost our way, as a nation of diverse cultures that once held dear the elders of our society.
The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and the Political Declaration adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing in April 2002 marked a turning point in how the world addresses the key challenge of “building a society for all ages”.
Guyana’s interactive community lifestyles have eroded to the point of non-existence. This contretemps is the primary factor that contributes to most societal ills; of which parental neglect – and even abuse – is merely one component of sick, fractured societies.
Minister Vindhya Persaud asserted “We have decided to work with our Elderly Commission and to look at programmes where we can improve the lives of the elderly outside of the regular ones like pension.”
The elderly in societies are often taken advantage of and relegated to the sidelines of life. Minister Persaud’s promise is comforting.