Government to support disadvantaged senior citizens

The government will look into how it can take care of the country’s elderly citizens, deprived of home and shelter, not based on what they see around the world but taking local traditions and culture into consideration. This was said by the works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden during the government’s first ‘meet the press’ session on 29 August.

“In the changing scenario and changing social economic development, we feel that the elderly is one group of people that is left behind. Because of that, we have in our manifesto that we will give good care to our elderly,” Lyonpo said, in response to a question raised by a reporter of The Bhutanese on the issue.

Though the government has not gone into details Lyonpo Dorji Choden assured that the government will definitely look after the elderly population that is being left out because of new lifestyle changes and new development taking place.

In addition, Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay said, “This will not replace the responsibility of us “children”- this is not intended to be replaced but intended to compliment- where there is a failure within individual families for whatever reasons or society at large, this is intended to cover the gap. We cannot ignore the failures, after all they are our own parents.”

Lyonpo Dorji Choden indicated it wouldn’t be wise to consider the western model such as old age homes and rather

look at Bhutan’s own culture and tradition. She said much of the country’s elderly population prefer spending time in and around religious monuments such as Goenpas and Lhakhangs. “Just now we have not gone into planning but we should see how we can make these places very conducive for elderly in terms of taking care of their health,” she added.

Talking to some of the people, many felt that it is high time Bhutan should have concerned authorities who can safeguard the vulnerable elderly citizens in the community.

A 39-year old private employee said “It is sad that in a GNH country like ours such things exist and I think the government should intervene and help such unfortunate people by building shelter homes and providing food.”

Another businessman said, “It’s really sad that children abandon their parents at such a stage in their lives and concerned authorities should act now by helping them.”

63-year-old Phub Zam has been living a miserable life confined to her bed for past three years after her leg amputation performed. Instead of her family members, she is being taken care of by Yeshi Pelden, the principal of Thuksel Day care in Paro.

This is just the tip of an iceberg as there are many such similar cases which go unnoticed and unreported. Senior citizens in the country are being abandoned and though the number of cases has not yet reached an alarming rate, the trend is beginning to emerge and the figures are enough to cause worry.

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