Editor's Comment

Abandoning old people unZambian

THE culture of a people is what marks them out distinctively from other human societies in the family of humanity.
For Zambians, like most Africans, a culture of extended families and caring for the elderly is certainly one attribute that has distinguished them from the western world for many generations.
In fact, the term `extended family’ was unheard of until the Western influences infiltrated African cultures.
In an African set-up, an ideal family was not only exclusive to the mother, father and children but included grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins, nieces and nephews.
In olden days, it was rare to find exclusive nuclear families because many lived as one big family.
This culture worked well as it ensured adequate support for the less privileged and elderly people in families.
For instance, a child whose parents died rarely, if at all, felt neglected.  There was no room for orphans, let alone orphanages.  Orphans were absorbed within the extended family for continued support.
This also applied to the elderly, who were well taken care of by either their children or other able-bodied members of the family.
It is, however, saddening that with the adoption of modernisation, Zambians are drifting away from this culture and are now relegating old people to care institutions and orphans to the streets.
Like President Edgar Lungu said, every right-thinking Zambian with a conscience should be concerned about this trend that is threatening our core values.
During a fundraising walk for Cheshire Homes Society in Lusaka on Saturday, President Lungu expressed concern on the growing tendency of taking the aged to old people’s homes, the trend he described as unAfrican.
As the head of State rightly noted, it is against the Zambian culture to abandon the elderly.
In a bid to embrace modernisation some people now perceive old people or indeed aged parents as a burden.
This is because in old age, people become fragile and require more care and support.
Some people lose sight, hearing and other body functionalities making them wholly dependent on others for care.
Regardless of the situation, the Zambian culture and values dictate a responsibility on citizens to offer care, support and comfort to old parents as they wind down on life.
Because Zambia is a Christian nation,we should know that looking after the elderly in society is not only a cultural matter but a biblical command.  It is one of the 10 Commandments as stated in Exodus 20:12 and underscored in Deuteronomy 5:16 says: “Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.”
From the biblical perspective honouring parents comes with a blessing of long life.
On the other hand the bible says dishonouring one’s parents comes with a death sentence as punishment (Ex. 21:17).
We could not agree more with President Lungu that honouring parents is a serious call from God which should be upheld.
How can it be well with us if we have been failing to look after our aged parents?” President Lungu said.
We cannot turn a blind eye and pretend all is well.
As Zambians we need to revert to our good old culture where elderly people were valued as reservoirs of wisdom and culture.
In the past, because grandparents lived in the same homes with grandchildren, they played an important role of relaying culture and values to young ones.
This is probably what distinguishes past generations from today’s.
The past generations benefited from the wisdom and counsel of grandparents hence, a strong moral foundation.
It is not a coincidence that today’s generation is the most pervert of all times.
As a country, we and generations to come to embrace old people. They are reservoirs of wisdom and blessings.
We need to discard the unbecoming culture of associating old age with witchcraft.
It is saddening that on this unfounded basis many innocent old people have been rendered homeless and in most unfortunate instances killed.
We cannot allow this to continue in a Christian nation.
The bible also warns that whatsoever a man sows, that he shall reap also.
It therefore goes to say that how we treat old people today will determine how we will be treated when we grow old.

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