Each year, on October 01, we observe “the International Day for Older Persons” through rallies and meetings and human rights-based promises for the elderly. Elderly is an obvious reality and last stage of human life cycle. In practice, most of the elderly people in our country suffer from some basic problems, such as poor financial support, absence of proper health and medicine facilities, family negligence, deprivation, and socioeconomic insecurity. Moreover, there are no separate facilities for the old people in public transports, at ticket counters, banks and hospitals etc.
In Bangladesh, there are resource constraints, capacity problems, infrastructural weaknesses, education deficiencies, and poor attitudes and expectations in relation to caring for elderly people. Elderly people mostly suffer from some physical illness and they need comprehensive medical care and services. Provision of health care for elderly people at various sites such as hospitals, nursing homes, old age homes and other places of shelter should be within the umbrella of legislative protection of rights and effective legal redress mechanism should be in place to guard against violations of rights.
The support that government provides for the elderly in our country is not sufficient.
There was no specific legal framework regarding maintenance of elderly parents until 2013. The government has enacted Pita-Matar Voronposhon Ain 2013 regarding protection of parents which is related to the issue of ageing. In this regard, collective responsibility is an urgent and top priority to protect legal rights of elderly people. They have the right to highest attainable standards of physical and mental health care. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is responsible for developing health policies and implanting the Health, Nutrition and Population Sector Programme. Except the old age allowance, there are no other schemes in government level. There is no particular department which can investigate the violation of elderly people's right. But a significant challenge is to involve elderly people directly in all matters related to their care both ethically and legally.
It is an ethical and moral responsibility to extend best care towards senior citizens so that they can pass their ending days of life with respect, proper care, and security. In this context, the government should be creative in renewing and revising policies and programmes for the better future of the elderly population. There is need to establish standards for service care providers, including in-home, community-based and residential settings. Every social policy should include a policy of active aging for elderly population. In addition, concerned personnel should assist the senior citizens so that they can enjoy their legal rights properly.
The writer is an Associate Professor of Law, Bangladesh Open University.