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Elders as Change Agents: Paving the way after a Disaster

The earthquake of April 25, 2015 in Nepal created massive destruction with a loss of lives and livelihoods, effecting over more than 8000 people and households. The elderly were among the most affected both physically and mentally. The severity of an ageing society and the huge demographic shift that we will be witnessing globally is stated in the facts by the World Health Organisation below:(http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/ageing/ageing_facts/en/):

  • The world’s population is rapidly ageing: The number of people aged 60 years or older will rise from 900 million to 2 billion between 2015 and 2050 (moving from 12% to 22% of the total global population).
  • Over 60 population will be larger than the under-15 population in 2050
  • 80% of world’s older people will live in developing countries by 2050
  • Ageism may now be more pervasive than sexism or racism
  • More than 180 Million Elders will live in poverty by 2050
  • By 2050 1 in 5 people will be over 60

In the context of Nepal, the National Population and Housing Census 2011 (Village Development Committee/Municipality) Report published in November 2012 by the Government of Nepal, National Planning Commission Secretariat, Central Bureau of Statistics Kathmandu, the total population of Nepal is 26,494,504. Out of the total population, 3,978,149 or 15% comprises of citizens above fifty years of age.

In recent years, there have been changes occurring not only due to age and livelihood but also due to easy global mobility of youths and earning population leaving behind empty homes and ageing parents. In the near future a huge number of the currently active population may face a similar vacuum or activity less life. There is a rising need to provide opportunities for elders to lead an active, productive and fulfilling life.

Elders are Assets not Burden
As a society, sometimes we tend to look as elders as burden and not as assets. What we seem to forget is the fact that, they are the ones with knowledge and experience. Every elder we meet or have in our family are treasure houses of how they overcame obstacles to reach where they are today and in turn making their children/ family what they are today. The sooner we start realizing they are assets not burdens, the better it will be for us to evolve as a society and in creating an environment of active ageing for everyone including ourselves.

There have been many examples of how elders have been change agents and one such comes from the community in Matatirtha, a place almost an hour’s drive from Patan. Through the establishment of the Ibasho Nepal initiative, the elders have been leading the community by starting livelihood projects.

Recently, they also visited Ofunato in Japan to learn from the elders there at Ibasho Japan.