DHAKA- Country's elderly citizens are projected to cross the number of child population in 2050, according to findings of a study that foresees one-fifth of total population would grow old with their ages crossing 60 years within the time frame.
"The size of senior citizens in 2050 would be 20 percent in Bangladesh while the size of child population at that time would be 19 percent," says Dr Mohsin Kabir Limon, executive director of NGO, 'Probin Bondhu', referring his study findings.
He says the country has now 13 million senior citizens aged over 60 years and it would reach to 45 million in 2050. The average life expectancy is expected to reach at 82 years from existing 72 years and the total population would be 220 million plus in 2050 from existing 160 million.
Dr Limon says an enhanced nutritional status backed by higher income of people, better treatment facilities and impact of technologies have increased average life expectancies substantially to 72 years and it would continue to rise further in decades ahead.
"At present, some persons can live up to 120 years because of the better management of their health and harnessing benefits from other advancements of sciences," he says. The United Nations and the Government of Bangladesh both are aware of it but they should now adopt pragmatic steps in advance.
Ageing had never been an issue in the country until the beginning of the 21st century, but it drew attention of the policymakers after academia conducted several researches and produced formidable evidences to see things seriously. The government started taking steps after 2009 and it enacted law to compel sons to look after their old parents since 2013.
A social safety net has been developed involving Taka 1,890 crore for the welfare of the senior citizens in the country, but the demand for such support is much greater than the supply, the study reveals. It says two-thirds of current 13 million senior citizens are poor and they were unable to meet their every day basic needs.
It says the senior citizens not only suffer from neglect and livelihood supports, they also suffer from physical and mental illnesses during their late stage of lives. So, a special care from family, neighbors and government is a must to enjoy their remaining live span in peace.
Dr Limon says Bangladesh parents are fortunately blessed by its rich tradition- old parents are respected and taken care of by their next generations. But separation of children from old parents for jobs in urban areas now leaves many parents unattended in rural sites. Poverty, in addition, has also been contributing negatively.
Dhaka University Professor Dr ASM Atiqur Rahman says ageing is a major development issue for Bangladesh but it received little or no attention on time. With the average life expectancy grows, he says, the problem become more visible and imminent. He also says the state has to take key responsibility of senior citizens under the changing socio-economic structure of society.
President of Bangladesh Ageing Support Forum Hasan Ali says the senior citizens should be considered as 'assets' instead of 'burdens' for the nation because of the storage of their long experience and the holders of indigenous knowledge. The younger generations have to be motivated afresh to show highest level of love and respect to their parents and grandparents.
"SDGs would face major setbacks unless proper attention is given to senior citizens and their problems," says PKSF Chairman Dr QK Ahmed, and added the government and other stakeholders have to take effective measures right now to improve the condition of elderly people in the country.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)