Columnists

Embracing old people in society

CATHERINE Mumba.

Analysis: CATHERINE MUMBA
IN THE past, old people were seen as a blessing and beacon of wisdom particularly because of the rich life experience they possess.For this reason, younger people would run to them whenever they needed advice on any matter or when they were about to take steps which required a blessing.
It is, however, unfortunate that today old people are seen as burdens and outcasts by many.
This can be evidenced by the number of old people who have been abandoned by their families and left to live in old-age care institutions.
Some have even been killed on suspicion of practising witchcraft.
This unfortunate situation takes me back to when I was growing up. My parents always emphasised the need for my siblings and I to at all times respect the elderly and render a helping hand whenever we could.
According to them, one of the pathways one could use to receive blessings from God was through taking care of the elderly, so I grew up with that perspective.
My parents also led by example because I grew up seeing them respecting and appreciating my grandparents who died at 85 and 92 respectively.
But with what is happening now, I am afraid that we may reach a time when the coming generations might have completely nothing to do with old people.
For me, an old person should be someone we enjoy and appreciate being around because of the wisdom they possessed.
I believe they can help us learn some things that carried them through life and made it possible for them to live many years on earth.
I am happy with the manner the State and some organisations have been honouring our first republican President, Kenneth Kaunda, who is now 94-years-old. This is how it ought to be.
And besides, we are a Christian nation and the bible is very clear of how much of a blessing old age is. Like Proverbs 16:31 says, “Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”
Growing old is a God-given blessing which should be treasured by all.
It could also be that we are becoming so comfortable with having a shorter lifespan, hence detesting those that have seen the days.
Whatever the case may be, I am of a firm belief that we the younger generation have messed up in so many ways and have become vulnerable to many negative vices because of the way we treat old people.
We have made mistakes because we have restricted our learning to mainly social platforms, thereby neglecting the rich wisdom that we can gather from the elderly.
There is also a common saying by some ladies these days that they wish to get married to a man whose mother has died because mothers-in-law are perceived to be burdens.
Now, this really gets me thinking, when I become a mother someday I would not want my daughters-in-law to wish me dead.
We need to always put ourselves in other people’s shoes if we are to appreciate them better.
It is very unfortunate that most of us dream of reaching old age yet treat those who should be our examples with resentment.
President Edgar Lungu equally expressed concern about the growing culture of abandoning old people or relegating them to care institutions.
Mr Lungu, who took part in the Cheshire Homes fundraising walk, stated that honouring parents is a serious call from God which comes with a reward.
“Today, we are faced with this challenge of aged people being homeless because the extended family values have been thrown to the wind,” he says.
This is a concern that we should all reflect on and start making some changes. Sometimes, the blessings we desire in life are not only dependent on us praying, giving in church or working tirelessly, they mainly manifest when we treat our parents (the old) right.
Parents and guardians, therefore, have a responsibility to teach children the need to respect and value old people at a tender age because they too are headed that direction.
I am pretty sure that no parent would want to be confined to an old-age care institution when they have children and grandchildren who are able to take care of them.
Both the Zambian culture and Christian values on which we base our principles do not condone abandoning our aged parents.
We need to always remember that should God allow us to live up to old age, which is the prayer for most of us, we will at some point run out of physical strength and our only source of comfort will be our children and family at large.
How we treat old people in our lives really matters.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail reporter.




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