According to a National Statistics Bureau projection, ageing population in Bhutan comprising people 60 years and above tend to increase every year. In 2016, ageing population was 56,827 out of a total population of 768,577 and this increased to 58,804 in 2017 out of a total population of 779,666. With the current growth rate, it is expected that Bhutan will have the largest increase in longevity (10 years) by 2030, the highest in Asia.
Survey findings reveal that though elderly citizens are highly respected in our culture, their expectations and aspirations are virtually unknown, especially to decision makers. The section of elderly citizens most affected by social misfortunes is those who do not have pension, shares and other forms of assets. Senior citizens also complained about having made to babysit frequently. About 98% of elderly citizens crave for medical facilities to be provided at home and within their locality. They also desired the establishment of old age nursing home. Only 18.4% of elderly prefer to stay with family or relatives while 7.7% aimed to do business.
What does this microcosm of facts say about the state of our elderly? Maybe we are letting familial bonds and our social fabric disintegrate because less than 20% of the elderly responded that they would actually love to spend the rest of their life with family while more than 90% said they preferred an old age nursing home.
Working parents who cannot spend time with their young children need to realize that they cannot place the burden of babysitting solely on their parents who are old and need care themselves. While we understand that it is difficult to get babysitters, we must realize if we are crushing the elderly with the burden of looking after our offspring. Some of course would not mind but others might just not be able to voice their reluctance.
Also, the fact that a majority of elderly feels the need for an old age nursing home might be telling of our times. Children have no time for ageing parents whom they might view as an encumbrance while they go about living their lives, in pursuit of position, power and money. Have we become too busy to afford time and company for our elderly?
Or we might simply have relegated our parents down in our list of priorities. The Bhutanese society is known for being sound when it comes to familial bonds. But with development and modernization, what we deemed important earlier is giving way to other pursuits.
It is true we have to adapt to changing times but some things must remain priorities if we are to continue being a happy, healthy and functional society. And loving and caring for our elderly remains one of them. Let us not let the world and its workings make us hard and callous.