Editorial comment – Care for the elderly

Neelum Kumar (right) of Ministry of Social Welfare with the residents of Samabula Golden Age home celebrate their day with a cutting cake ceremony. Picture: JONA KONATACI

The revelation that the number of residents in senior citizens’ homes around the country continues to increase will no doubt attract a lot of attention.

Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Minister Mereseini Vuniwaqa made the comment, suggesting the trend was worrying because it showed the level of commitment of family units towards caring for the elderly.

Mrs Vuniwaqa said while her ministry played its part in caring for the elderly in Fiji, families, she said, should step in and also shoulder the burden of caring for the elderly.

The rise in the number of residents in aged care homes, she suggested, speaks volumes of social issues that we need to address, not only on a national level but in family units.

Government, faith-based groups and non-governmental organisations, she insisted, cannot do this alone.

Fiji, she said, should take some responsibility to take care of the elderly.

“We can only build so many homes and looking at the aged population in two to three decades, there will be more aged citizens.

“So the responsibility needs to go back to the family units and our ministry has started strategies in empowering families and communities to look after the elderly.”

The population from the last census, she said, showed that we will have an increase in the number of aged citizens. “Fiji is doing so much in the international arena but all that would not have been possible without the contribution of our senior citizens,” she said.

Mrs Vuniwaqa said it was sad to hear stories of residents in homes whose children hardly visited them.

What we appear to have is an unfortunate situation.

Understandably there would be many reasons for this rise in numbers.

We would wonder whether modern day living, pressures of daily life, situational circumstances perhaps, economic pressures, and trends are contributing to this change in mind-set.

Then there is the issue of influence from abroad perhaps.

But it seems there are families that have a change in mind-set these days, and are opting out of caring for their elderly.

Or perhaps there is a line of thought that special care homes are better for them considering the fast changing pace of life in modern Fiji, and limited time and attention reserved for the elderly.

It does raise the issue of whether some families now consider them a burden.

That obviously would be a sad reflection of society and of the family unit.

There are special care homes.

We are fortunate we have them it seems.

Otherwise we may just as well be dealing with a far greater problem with many of our elderly having nowhere to go, and being neglected and left alone in depression to live out their lives.

It is a sad a predicament of the kind of people some of us have developed into.

Let’s take a deep breath today, and take stock of where we are headed as individuals and as a family unit.

We may just discover who we really are and need to be.

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