For the Elderly: The Forgotten Members of Society


When it comes to charity and social issues, what is the first thing you think about? Poverty? Orphans? The environment? Animal cruelty? Sexism? Hear about any of these issues, and most people would have a strong opinion on it. Many would even express their sympathy towards those who suffer.

But what about the elderly?

Be honest now. Did the elderly cross your mind once when I posed that first question? Was it even one of the first things you thought about? If your answer is no on both counts, it is actually not unusual.

As a matter of fact, it highlights a growing problem in our society.

More often than not, as our lives get busier, the elderly are forgotten. This, despite how it is in our culture to care for our parents when they’re older. Then again, the fault doesn’t rest entirely on us. There are many other factors to consider: our migration to other cities or countries, elderly who do not have children, long working hours, high cost of living, both men and women working, just to name a few.

This combination forms a poison that has wormed its way into our society; it’s an ugly truth that we’re not proud of admitting, but it is definitely there.

While many of us still observe our filial duty to care for our parents, there has been an increase of those who don’t. A survey by researchers from University Malaya’s Prevent Elder Abuse and Neglect Initiative (Peace) found that one in 10 elderly experience abuse and neglect in urban settings, while one in 20 experience the same in rural areas. This is something that we cannot ignore.

Perhaps it’s also because we have a culture that cares for the elderly that we have this problem- because we have this assumption that everyone will observe their filial duty, we don’t immediately realise that there are elderly who need our care.

And as though to place emphasis on this issue that has occupied my mind, I have attended a charity event that was meant to give support to both underprivileged children and the elderly. What I saw was disheartening. Upsetting, even.

Whilst the children were blessed with gifts by many Good Samaritans (and this is wonderful! I’m glad for them), the elderly were entirely forgotten. They sat in their own corner during a party that was meant for them too, neglected. Barely a single soul spoke to them, save for the odd volunteer, and these volunteers were busy with ensuring the party proceeded smoothly.

The dejection and their silence gave me the impression that this was something they’ve unfortunately grown accustomed to. A phenomenon that was confirmed verbally by the charity workers themselves, the behaviour of the party-goers- and apparently, the statistics.

This brings me to the end of this long monologue. Times are changing, everyone. It’s about time we change too.

Let’s extend our heart and goodwill to those who raised us, and those who helped build the society we live in today. Tell your parents you love them, give them a gift, volunteer at an old folks’ home. You have no idea how happy these gestures will make them- after all, the elderly need our attention too.

Don’t let these people feel as though they’re abandoned.

Melissa Kartini
Nuffnang Community Team

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