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Elders deserve better and more

The efforts of the Auckland based Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust to establish a Home for the Aged deserve our commendation. More, the Project should enlist wide public support, for as mentioned in our report appearing elsewhere in this issue, the need for such a Home has been pronounced since long.

A Home for the Aged, catering to the South East Asian Community comes at a time when the Government is seriously considering ways and means of improving the health and care of the seniors in the society. According to statistical projections, New Zealand’s demography is slated to change dramatically over the next 25 years.

While the baby boomers are fast reaching their age of retirement, geriatric care will assume greater importance. Further, improved public health services are also influencing the life expectancy of people. As the number of aged increases, the need to provide them with appropriate homecare and other facilities would also gain greater significance and importance.

People of Chinese and Indian origin, constitute the largest migrant communities, along with Maori and Pacific Islanders. While the Government would indubitably do its best to provide them with care, the importance of private sector involvement with innovative projects cannot be overemphasised.

The initiative of Bhartiya Samaj to construct a Home for the Aged should be taken as a community project and accorded the requisite financial, material and other support in order that it becomes a reality within an acceptable timeframe.

The Indian community is perhaps the only segment of any society, which has, until recently, did not take the need for Homes for the Elderly seriously. The reason is not far to seek. Most of us have considered it our duty to look after our parents and grandparents and it is not uncommon for them to be a part of a household. The elders looked after our children as we went about our business or employment.

But winds of change have begun to blow in our direction.

The breakdown of the Joint Family system, establishment of smaller housing units and the lifestyle changes that have occurred in our societies have all altered the scope and extent of elderly care.

The rising cost of elderly care would put a strain on the public exchequer, which is another reason for new focus on private enterprise. The Government would of course do its best to look after its senior citizens but with financial resources becoming scarcer, more and more initiatives would have to come from organisations such as Bhartiya Samaj.

It also occurs to us that public support through donations, voluntary work and other means of assistance will be more forthcoming than expenditure incurred by the Crown. A case in point is the Royal Commission on the Long Term Care of the Elderly in the United Kingdom.

The Commission’s recommendation that the State should bear a much greater proportion of the costs of caring for the elderly through general taxation became a serious issue of discord.

It must be recognised that as life expectancy grows, disabilities are likely to increase, as will the need for long-term care. Modern medicine is good at keeping people alive; much less successful in dealing with arthritic limbs and senile dementia. And as more and more women now go out to work, there are going to be fewer people to care for those who can no longer look after themselves.

We will watch and support with growing interest all initiatives in this direction.

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