It is common knowledge that with time we all get older and lose the strength we once had in our youth. Ageing occurs to each one of us and at every point society will have a mixture of generations, including the old. Interestingly, those young today rarely think they will ever grow old. They forget that the old ones they see around now were also once young.
Society today glorifies the youthful age so much so that a ‘youth-worshiping culture’ is embraced as normal. Across the world, companies mostly employ the youth due to their stamina, vitality and vibrancy. The youth are also mostly employed as they are thought to be highly trainable, more likely to work long hours and able to handle strenuous manual work than the old folk.
Companies that can read the times well mostly use young people to advertise their products-be it clothes, cosmetics, cars and many more. Adoration of the youthful stage is also seen in relationships where some husbands have abandoned wives of their own age and gone for much younger women with an assumed assurance that these will make better wives.
On the other hand, society seems to care less for the elderly. This is simply because old age is more of a stripping away process than an enriching one. Although getting old is as sure as night and day, many people do not prepare for it in any significant way. Consequently, many people grow poorer and some go into depression as they go through this stripping away process unprepared.
But how does this stripping away process work? Unlike in the youthful stages of life, in old age, people begin to lose their physical strength and stamina. They also lose most crucial senses of sight and hearing as they begin to have blurred vision due to cataracts in their eyes and sometimes require hearing aids to hear clearly.
Loss of memory, teeth and general degeneration in functionality of internal organs such as the heart and kidneys are some of the challenges that people meet in old age. As such, old people need a lot more money to deal with lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and so on. The old folk also lose their independence as they subsequently need the help of others for one thing or the other.
Recently, Malawi was rated one of the worst places to grow old due to lack of proper basic care for the aged. However, one may ask, who is responsible for the aged? Is it the government, society or the one aging? In the absence of nursing homes, caring for the elderly is usually left to children of the one ageing.
Sadly, this approach has left some gaps in the way the elderly are cared for as due to HIV and Aids, many parents have prematurely lost their children who would have helped them in old age.
Worse still, most Malawians do not prepare for old age in any meaningful way, leaving their future to chance. However, every person carries the greatest share of this responsibility to care for oneself in old age and this needs careful preparation in one’s youth. Nonetheless, government, children and society are also to take part in caring for the elderly.
Some experts have said ageing for women starts at the age of 35 and for men, at 40. These benchmarks imply that preparation for old age should begin earlier prior to years when ageing is said to have started and should continue until one is technically disabled to carry out any meaningful work.
The good news is that people who are employed now a better chance to prepare for their old age, as the 2010 Pension Act passed by Parliament has made pension schemes for employees mandatory for all employers.
However, for those that are not in formal employment, government should set up various programmes to sensitise communities to the need to prepare for old age. The programmes could be carried out through community leaders such as chiefs, members of Parliament and councillors focusing on financial, physical and emotional aspects of a person.
If not well prepared for, ageing can be a painful, dreadful, lonely process and a constant reminder of an impending death.
The comforting thing is that all those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength and soar on eagles’ wings, they will walk and not faint and they shall run and not grow weary. Yes, even in old age!