It is heartening that our country observed its first Senior Citizens Day recently at Zangdo Pelri in the capital city. A strong premise of our culture and tradition is respect for elders.
However, challenges are emerging for the Bhutanese, as elsewhere around the world, to keep this beautiful tradition vibrant in our society.
Today, education has taken many of us from the villages to bigger towns where we spend most of our time doing some job and then eventually settle down. The reality is most of our elderly parents and grandparents are left in the villages, and some are still doing daily household chores in the absence of any helping hands.
With our pace of urbanisation, ever-growing desires and competing lifestyles the distance between us and our elders, especially those in the villages will grow. While the development of physical communications in the form of road networks and mobile services has brought families together, yet, TVs and other applications are emerging as annihilators of interpersonal relationships.
A compelling story of an elderly couple from a remote village, who travelled all the way for days to meet their son in Thimphu, is worth noting. They returned home saying that they could meet only the TV. Apparently their son, daughter-in-law, and kids had no time to talk to them; they were too busy on their phones or with the TV.
There is a growing number of young citizens, including some parents now, who have never been to their villages. They were born and brought up in the towns; perhaps, totally cut-off from their roots. It’s an ineffable situation.
Comparing the urban and rural elder senior citizens, the former is in a much better position than the latter.
As tears rolled down the eyes of a 75-year-old woman, a visitor who attended the Senior Citizens Day event, one can imagine the kind of happiness and warmth she, including the other elderly senior citizens, must have experienced. There is nothing so rewarding and satisfying to know that someone cares about you.
According to the World Population Aging 2015 report, one in eight, worldwide, are aged 60 years or above. Here at home, as per the Statistical Yearbook 2015, the projected population of those aged 60 and above is 36,097, which is one in 21.
Therefore, the Royal Society for Senior Citizens, an organisation born out of our Druk Gyalpo’s vision and noble desire for the love of His subjects, is timely, noble, and crucial for our aging population, especially for those in the remotest parts of the country.
We all will, willing or unwillingly, pass through that stage.