Age-friendly Pakistan: a dream of older women, men

ISLAMABAD: The human rights of older persons in Pakistan remain neglected.

Initial findings of a national study show 20% of older persons in Pakistan struggle with their everyday basic needs of food and shelter. A greater disadvantage is observed for older women as 24% of them struggle in accessing the basic needs of food and shelter.

To better understand the challenges facing older people in Pakistan, a first-ever national level research study has been conducted by HelpAge International with the support of British Council. Titled ‘Moving from the Margins: Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Older People in Pakistan,’ the study was led by Dr Asghar Zaidi, Professor in International Social Policy at University of Southampton. Qualitative and quantitative data collection was collected from all four provinces of the country. The complete report will be launched later in this year.

According to the report, a higher proportion, about 25%, struggle with everyday basic needs for healthcare and medicine. Women do worse than men in this respect. Close to one-half believe that younger members of the family have a greater ability to pay for the costs of their health care.

One out of ten older persons believe that they have been looked down upon or treated in humiliating, shameful or degrading way because of their age. A similarly large proportion of Pakistani older persons believe that their family members make important decisions without their permission or consent.

Commenting ahead of the release of the report, Professor Zaidi said: “Pakistan urgently needs to develop clear and comprehensive institutional arrangements for the protection of human rights of older persons, including guaranteed minimum pensions for everyone and specialised and affordable geriatric health care provisions.”…..

Ageing is under strong focus of international development now. It is clearly recognized in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These call for leaving no one behind and ensuring that development goals met for segments of society. Ageing cuts across the goals on poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, economic growth and decent work, reduced inequalities and sustainable cities. Therefore, it is essential to address the exclusion and vulnerability of older people in the implementation of SDG’s; it is more important for older persons to be recognized as the active agents of development.

Every year, October 1 is celebrated as the International day of Older People by United Nations to raise awareness on population ageing, the rights of older people to active, secure, healthy and dignified lives and the significant contribution older men and women make in the societal development. However, Ageist attitudes can restrict older people’s ability to participate in different areas of their lives and effectively contribute in the society…..

Even though Pakistan is party to a number of human rights treaties which talk about the rights of older people, the country has done shamelessly little to implement these laws.