Friday, September 30, 2011

I know many children who have neglected their parents and do not wish to keep their parents even for a day, although as grandparents they always love to spend their last days with their grandchildren.!!!

Elders Homes in Sri Lanka September 29, 2011, 8:30 pm The International Year for the Elders falls on 1St October. Let us give a little thought on this day, remembering our aged parents and elders who are suffering in silence in our country. When we are young and healthy, we never for a moment gave serious thought that we will one day grow old and feeble and that we would need the assistance of someone to look after us in the autumn of our life. In Sri Lanka prior to World War II children were very attached and loved their parents and although they were married and had family responsibilities and settled down in life, they never neglected to look after their parents in their old age, whether they had wealth in abundance or otherwise. With times, there have been changes in Sri Lanka. Children feel that it is a burden to look after their parents in their old age, when they are sick and feeble, perhaps due to financial strains and with the escalating cost of living. In these circumstances some would prefer that their parents die early. I know many children who have neglected their parents and do not wish to keep their parents even for a day, although as grandparents they always love to spend their last days with their grandchildren. In Sri Lanka, several years ago, I met an old couple near the Pettah Bus Stand (exposed to the elements) which is now their home, far away from home. They appear to be in their early 80s and partially blind. The old man related a very pathetic story to me. He was an educated person, spoke fluent English and had lived his life in Kandy. He had eight children and has sufficient wealth, which he divided amongst the eight children equally. He gave them in marriage and expected they would look after them in their old age. As time went on the children had taken up the position among themselves as to why the other brother or sister could not take the responsibility of looking after their parents in their old age. Everyone evaded the real issue of taking responsibility of looking after their parents and nothing was done to make the parents happy. One day, a son who could not bear the parents being neglected and suffering any further decided to bring the parents to Colombo from Kandy with the idea of entering them to an Elders Home in the city. Having failed in his mission, he just left the parents at the Pettah Bus Stand and disappeared. Never was the son seen again. What this son did was really shocking. The aged couple had to beg for their livelihood. In another case concerning the parents of a boy and a girl whom were given in marriage, the parents had to look after their grandchildren. However, when they became old and feeble the two children refused to keep their parents and started to ill-treat them. The children although affluent and educated in leading schools in Colombo, tried to get them into an Elders Home but failed. Meanwhile, the mother died. It was a great relief to them. The father lived with the daughter. But after a week’s stay she put the old man into a three-wheeler (having pre-paid the fare) and sent him to her brother’s house. Again, after a week or so the son sent the old man back in a three-wheeler (having prepaid the fare) to his sister’s house. The old man was suffering. Since he could not bare this anymore, he went to a relative’s place with his problems. They refused to keep him or put him in an Elders Home, because the children could well afford to put him into a fee-paying Elders Home. These are a few isolated cases but many old people are suffering in silence today. Is this not a "cruel world" that we are living in today to desert our parents at a time they really need the children’s assistance. In developed countries like Australia, children leave their parents at an early age of 16 years and live by themselves. When it comes to old age the State looks after them and provides them with social security and free public transport passes, Senior Citizens and Concession Cards to enable the elders to purchase pharmaceutical items etc., at a discounted price. Several religious organizations in our country, Sri Lanka, with limited financial resources and donations have provided for the old and feeble. But this is a far cry compared to the real needs of the neglected elders-in Sri-Lanka. I was pleased to hear recently that the Old Girls Association of Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena have opened an Elders Home at Mabole, Wattala for the aged past pupils of Good Shepherd Convent who have become destitute. This is a worthy project. Perhaps, past pupils of other schools and colleges should start similar projects and will gain "merits" if they help aged past pupils who are sick and feeble and are unable to look after themselves in the autumn of their lives. Our politicians have debated many matters in Parliament but never for a moment have given serious thought to the matter of opening more elders home throughout the country. Perhaps when the time comes they can count on their pensions after five years in Parliament, and fall back on their financial resources. But what abut the thousands of helpless old people who continue to suffer in silence? Politicians should give serious thought to the elderly people who have now become deadwood and whom society has also neglected. The Government may not have the money to finance the building of Elders Homes in the country for those who have been discarded in the autumn of their lives by their loved ones due to the prevailing war like situation in the North/East of the country and having won the war two years ago and now have to find money for rehabilitation and infrastructure the people. Perhaps the Department of Social Services should undertake to launch a fortnightly lottery to find the money for the maintenance and upkeep of these Elders Homes. People will no doubt support a worthy cause since they may also one day seek admission to these Elders Homes. I have visited several Sri Lanka homes in Australia and have seen for myself that much food is wasted and thrown into the bin, while our countrymen are suffering in silence. Nearly 50% of the population are living below the poverty line. I would appeal to our dear Sri Lankans living in this great country, Australia, where all ethnic groups live in peace to think for a moment of our Elders who are presently neglected in Sri Lanka. I know of a Sri Lankan who is a Banker, living in California, who had built an Elders Home and a Childress Home in Negombo and also helps to maintain these Homes. Perhaps there are several Sri Lankan philanthropists who could build Elders Homes in memory of their parents in Sri Lanka, presently there about 20 Billionaires in Sri Lanka according to the media. There are several Elders Homes in Sri Lanka that depend solely on voluntary contributions to maintain these Homes. It is a very sad fact, but the reality is that many of these Homes do not know how or where to find their next meal! The first Mother Teresa Elders Home was built in Sri Lanka in 1965 at the former Mission House, St. Anthony’s Church, Madampitiya, Colombo 14. It is presently known as the "Home of Compassion" and managed by the Apostolic Carmelite Sisters. There are many Elders Homes run by several religious organizations in Sri Lanka. The list of these Homes may be obtained from the Department of Social Services, situated at 76/1/1, Duminda Building, Galle Road, Colombo 4. Any financial assistance and items of clothing may be given to these elders Homes direct. By doing so, you will gain "merits". Let us leave this world better than it was found and let our parents feel that they have not been neglected by their loved ones in the loneliness and also by the society to which they once contributed their "mite". Fred Rodrigo-Sathianathen, Melbourne, Australia. www