“Embrace the silver strand, embrace life’s tapestry”
By: Lesira Rampa
In this era, everything in our lives is seemingly disposable – even people. It is time we take a halt and pounder over the generation amongst us that brims with a mammon of knowledge, yet merely dismissed as relics of bygone times. Raw knowledge that is untouched by results generated by a swift click of a google search engine. These are the gold mines that go ignored and have been shattered by chains of indifference but not more so than the prevailing ageism within society. Ageism is the discrimination, and prejudice on the grounds of age, and the elderly in this case are held victim to this inequity.
Elderly individuals are just as deserving of fair treatment as anyone irrespective of their age. Many a time we view them as a unit, subjecting them to generalizations that disregard their individuality and uniqueness. Unfortunately, there prevails a general fear of old age, associating it with nothing but lack of competency, unattractiveness by the overemphasis or glorification of the preservation of youthful looks ,and dependency- even if they do want to show vitality and contribute to society ,are we really making substantial effort to ensure their effective inclusiveness ?
It is evident that a sense of purpose and self-worth are deeply intertwined with financial security or employment. A fact that cannot be overlooked. The United Nations categorizes individuals aged 60 or 65 and above as older people, a threshold in line with the retirement age followed by most elderly individuals in Lesotho. Nevertheless, upon reaching this stage they are often confronted with the perplexing question of ‘what now?’, as they patiently await their pensions with little to no meaningful and gratifying activities to keep their minds sharp. Development as a concept, predominantly invokes thoughts of the younger generation- rightfully so! Yet there arises a crucial need to couple the empowerment of elderly individuals with the notion of development.
The lack of knowledge for technology for instance does not absolve these gems from their potential contributions towards developmental initiatives, Basotho should work upon fostering intergenerational connections for both the older and younger generation for the benefit of learning from one another. With projections suggesting a number of elderly individuals will outweigh the number of children under the age of 16 by the year 2047 globally, there is therefore a serious urgency in exploring alternative activities that provide fulfillment especially financial stability for the senior citizen.
Continuing with the same thread, elderly individuals can continue to make considerable contributions to Lesotho’s economy even after retirement including the restoration of self-worth through their engagement and application of their historic knowledge and lifelong wisdom. It is imperative to recognize that the worth of our senior citizens extends beyond conventional work experience. There is a plethora of skills that can be contributed significantly to the economy like the boosting of tourism in Lesotho through the advocacy of conservation of the natural surroundings and customs .These include traditional arts and indigenous medicinal knowledge that can offer potential opportunities for the development of herbal medicine industries, while the cultural products can be marketed as cultural products that attract tourism- A sector still not given sufficient attention thus far. But the necessary efforts to improve this sector will amid other benefits help reduce ageism among senior citizens – the recognition of their expertise and knowledge including general inclusion will lead to society’s appreciation of their experience and contributions hence promoting intergenerational harmony.
This group is often faced with excruciating lone and often left behind in ways to entertain themselves to help impart mental vitality. Incorporating basic technology related workshops like knowing how to navigate their way around banking apps and communication platforms would help combat the blues of being left alone with little to no entertainment and means to help them to never stop learning of the latter days’ convenient methods of banking in this fast-paced world.
Lesotho’s policy for elderly individuals have the right intensions of warranting the protection and well-being of older people, like the guaranteeing of their dignity, non-discrimination and equality amongst others. While there are existing policies and laws that offer protection to the elderly – there are however gap areas that need improvement to meet their evolving needs, like the enhancement of punishment for crimes targeting senior citizens such as rape cases and theft by prioritizing them in the judicial system and make certain a quick and fair trial. Despite enacting laws and policy formation and improvement, it is also a collective societal responsibility to report these crimes swiftly, the establishment of helplines for abuse reports and, but not limited to the formation of self -defense training within our communities.
The years of retirement are but an elevation into the next phase of life that should be cherished and marveled upon. It should not be attached to dread and feelings of self-worthlessness. Older adults should be empowered as much as possible and the portrayal of the senior citizen should take a shift into the positive light, highlighting the beauty of old age and aiding them to break free from the stereotypes, help them pursue lifelong aspirations and encourage them to believe dreams coming true are not a thing only possible during the days of youth. The mentorship programs aimed at sharing their expertise can lead to both personal fulfillment and economic growth. After all, within the crevices of wrinkled smiles lies the gold mines of societies –where treasures of experience and stories untold reside.