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OP-ED: The little that can be done for senior citizens

  • Published at 01:44 am June 18th, 2021
old elderly

We can make life a little easier for the elderly

Senior citizens exist in Bangladesh, but they are far outnumbered by the younger generation. It is the young who will lead the country to more progress and economic strength -- that is well understood by those whose heydays are over. Yet, the older citizens of the country need to be supported wherever it is possible.

In our country, civil servants retire when they turn 59; judges of the High Court finish their jobs when they are 67, while university professors have to call it a day once they become 65. Politicians, people who do business, or are self-employed can continue working as long as their body and mind allow them to work.

The average age of both males and females in Bangladesh is almost 73 years in Bangladesh for a variety of reasons, including the advancements made in medical science. Also, this increased longevity has happened because people are more conscious these days of their proper diet and the need for some physical exercise.

These retired citizens of the country have been tax-payers until the end of their careers. The government benefited from the tax paid by the elderly who sometimes feel othered after their retirement. Many of them pass their free time by engaging in social work; some concentrate on reading and writing, while many of them become religious at the fag end of their lives.

Bangladesh is still a developing country, and not rich enough to provide any kind of social security in monetary terms. Our public health system does provide some support, although it is by no means sufficient.

We have not seen any kind of discounts provided to senior citizens by the state-owned Bangladesh Railway or Biman Bangladesh Airlines. Even a nominal 10% discount could be a notable gesture to these people who had worked throughout their lives for the country.

I am lucky because I still at work at a private university after retiring from the public university where I finished my education and soon after began, and later finished, my academic career.

At least once a month, I go to the bank to take out money, and at times I find myself sandwiched in a long queue. The manager of the bank knows me as a client, and she always invites me to take a seat in her office so that she can arrange for the money I want to withdraw. I appreciate her courtesy and kindness, but remain standing in the line thinking that those behind me are also respected clients of the bank.

If the Bangladesh Bank could arrange for separate booths for senior citizens in all branches of private and state-owned banks, many people like me could complete their banking needs without getting tired of standing for a long time.

Even Bangladesh Railway and the Biman should seriously consider introducing counters or booths for senior citizens. Other government departments such as the passport offices can also think of offering this gesture of kindness to the senior citizens. The same can be done in post offices too, because every day, many senior citizens visit post offices for various kinds of work.

In quite a few supermarkets in Dhaka, I have seen senior citizens being requested to come out of a long queue and go to a counter for paying promptly without having to wait. I was also happy to find extremely courteous young volunteers chaperoning elderly people to a cabin meant for the old people when I went to take my Covid jabs.

I have a feeling that the right mindset to provide these types of help to senior citizens exists in the country. Maybe it’s about time for the government to decide at what age a person can be called a senior citizen. After that they could be given preferential treatments in places where they have to spend a long time waiting.

Perhaps, age 60 should be considered the time for a person to become a senior citizen in Bangladesh.

Golam Sarwar Chowdhury teaches English at Notre Dame University Bangladesh.

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