Elderly Face Changing Times

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By Fifi Rhodes WINDHOEK The Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Alpheus !Naruseb, said he is worried about the rate at which people are joining the ranks of the elderly as this trend is putting tremendous pressure on governments around the world. This pattern, the minister said, is demanding from governments to relook their future planning to accommodate these changes. “We are moving in a time all over the world when nations are busy aging fast,” said the minister. The minister, who spoke at the annual Christmas lunch for elderly people at Rehoboth hosted by Christian welfare organizations at the town, said it is by no means true that an elderly person does not or cannot contribute towards building and developing the land and its people. “We exclude the input of the elders at decision-making when economic development is planned.” Studies, he said, showed that poverty hindered the elders from living a balanced life, yet at a time when food and medicine are plentiful. And this leads to their non-existent participation in community development at all spheres including political, social and economic. Their exclusion from community activities will lead to one sidedness when it comes to decision-making and planning. And this will lead to resources being given to younger persons or other people and then the elders will start feeling left out because their dignity goes hand in hand with the acknowledging role that one plays in life, he said. This also results in the loss of valuable knowledge and experience to the community and the loss of role models. “We see the elders still using their meagre pension money to care for their children because of joblessness or low grades at the end of the year, resulting in no jobs at all.” Despite all this, Naruseb said, the government is concerned but will always care, and the monthly pension payout is testimony to that. He said government is busy looking into reuniting families again. The theme for Sunday’s function was “Love in Action”. It is every child’s responsibility to look after his or her parents, he said, adding that by executing love in action Namibians could create a new culture, which can be practised till eternity. He praised the organizers for the job they did for the elderly of Rehoboth. “I believe that the elderly is our responsibility and each one of us must always give the best.” He said the people of the country must rekindle the ways things were done before. “Our parents loved one another and had even an extra plate of food for someone else. Today the relationship is no more. Our ancestors did not practise any discrimination. “But after we dismantled apartheid it seems that we all suddenly realize who we are and now come with a sudden change not recognizing one another as it was before,” he told the younger ones. Naruseb said our ancestors lived very close to one another and even shared so many things together. This, he noted, is not seen anymore. Even at work, the people working with you are just as human as you are and therefore treat one another as if you would like to be treated in the same circumstances. “If you say you love me, show it,” he stressed. Speaking at the same occasion, member of the National Council Theo Diergaardt said it is for younger people to realize the importance of their social responsibility towards the elders. “This is … our cultural heritage, spiritual identity and our past and future existence.” It is not the responsibility of the extended family to take care of the elders but an obligation for all of us to acknowledge the senior citizens for their past, present and future contributions to the development of our heritage,” he said. He told the gathering that despite government’s efforts at treating the elders with dignity and creating equity among people of different ages and races, there are groups of people and individuals who are trying to jeopardize government’s incentives . Diergaardt said these people are still suffering from a rather suspicious political hangover, accusing government of not doing enough. “It is against this background that they are trying to achieve political mileage at the expense of the elderly. Our office here in Rehoboth is striving to ensure that the elderly are given their due honour and respect, with support structures put in place to eliminate marginalization and provide adequately for the various needs of our elderly,” he told the folk gathered at the meeting. He also made an appeal to all stakeholders and business people of Rehoboth to join hands by better looking after the elders of the town.