Kazi Farzana Sharmin and Hasnat M Alamgir |
Dec. 18, 2021, 9:00 p.m.
The current median age of the population of Bangladesh is 27.6 years and within a decade it will grow to 31.6 years; this suggests continued demographic change, and the available evidence suggests that it will become more evident in the years to come. Although at present the nation enjoys the economic growth resulting from a demographic dividend which comes with a large number of available young people and a working age population, this will slow down over time depending on the population. forecasts and the number and share of the aging population will continue to grow. Fewer young people will join the workforce and be responsible for supporting the older population. A similar crisis will emerge in Bangladesh, which other developed countries have been going through for several decades. This will become a critical national issue and it is a good time to start discussing, understanding and addressing the economic security, health and well-being needs and issues of this growing aging population and the global impact that this dynamic has. Changing demographics will have on society and economy.
Almost 720 million people worldwide are now 65 and over and, like the trend in the rest of the world, the number of elderly people in Bangladesh is increasing. According to a study by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies titled “An Inclusive Approach to Care for the Elderly in Bangladesh” published in December 2019, Bangladesh is on a path where 21% of its population will be elderly by 2025, and 40 percent will be aged. ‘here the middle of the century. This is largely attributed to increased life expectancy, declining fertility rates, economic prosperity and better access and delivery of health services. But in a crowded country, a growing share of the aging population can be seen as a huge burden on its economy and society, unless there are well-designed policies, plans, programs, and a number of initiatives for this segment. population are put in place. place to support them.
In changing socio-economic circumstances encompassing rapid urbanization, industrialization, the migration of millions of young people to other countries, the breakdown of mixed families into nuclear families, the increasing participation of women in the labor market, the the traditional form of family care that has been in place for centuries may collapse. As a result, the care of the elderly – who until now was cared for by their immediate family members and children – is and will become a major concern. The study mentioned above said anger towards older family members was widespread in both rural and urban settings, with reports being higher among city dwellers. Of more concern is that on the issue of assault, this study found that about 7 percent of rural seniors surveyed experienced physical abuse and that percentage doubled among urban respondents.
Many countries around the world have faced the needs and challenges of older people and have developed a well-functioning support mechanism that includes the provision of specialized care and attention to promote physical and mental health for them while providing free or heavily subsidized housing, meals, and transportation for this segment of the population. But to pursue a similar policy and launch such programs in a developing country, policymakers must first be made aware of the seriousness of these looming problems, especially for a country that does not have the necessary care providing a workforce. skilled work or even basic infrastructure adapted to the elderly in place. .
However, not knowing the obvious cannot be an excuse for not making the necessary preparations.
Older people may not always be able to contribute to the economy and society like their younger counterparts due to their failing health and deteriorating cognitive abilities, but their rich experience, skills and knowledge can often remain valuable for many years after retirement and can continue to contribute as mentors and trainers in many industries and professions. As an example, the government of Bangladesh has allowed many of its retired civil servants to work for a few more years on contract service, and it shows that these people are doing and can contribute to the nation in a meaningful way. when given the right opportunity and government as an employer has benefited greatly from this experience. Supreme Court justices and university professors are now retiring at 67 and 65 respectively and there is no valid reason to believe that people from other sectors could not contribute as well if they are also allowed to keep a paid job a little longer. Bangladesh politicians never retire and all remain actively engaged with utter vigor and passion until their death.
On the government side, increasing the amount and coverage of old age allowances, providing functional health insurance and taking initiatives to provide nursing and home and residential health care to the elderly would help them maintain good health. and well-being. In addition, today’s children should be educated from an early age on their duties and responsibilities to older family members, loved ones and, in general, how to respect and care for members. aged society. Teachers, religious scholars, and textbooks can be important sources or media in conveying this important message. The moral aspects of this family and social obligation must be promoted through mass media, online campaigns and other social platforms.
Seniors will also have special needs in terms of transportation and financial transactions. To cope with the banking system, with most operations being digitized, a better and age-friendly banking service needs to be put in place, which will facilitate all transactions, including withdrawals, deposits and savings. . When it comes to transportation issues, it is not easy for the elderly to get on a crowded bus and Bangladesh buses or other mass transport vehicles have no option to accommodate the elderly or those with assisted devices. At some point in their life, most seniors will not be able to cook their own meals.
All of this cannot be planned or executed by government alone. All members of society should make a constructive and deliberate contribution to securing and promoting the well-being of older people. This could be done by creating early awareness among school children by promoting their volunteer activities in the community which focus on the needs of the elderly. By initiating programs through hospitals and NGOs, an enabling environment can be created to provide special care to the elderly. Providing access to a gym, offering nutritional and dietary advice and establishing geriatric care facilities in all major hospitals to provide them with specialized health care will certainly be of support.
The predicted growth of the elderly population will create many economic and social problems in Bangladesh and these require serious attention from policy makers and activists now.
Kazi Farzana Sharmin works for the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) and Hasnat M Alamgir is professor of public health