Senior Citizens Association in Yemen [Archives:1998/22/Focus]

June 1 1998

This is an OPINION page.
Every week, a different intellectual writes a FOCUS on a pertinent issue!
By Yusuf Abdul-Hamid,
Director, Postal Services (1948 – 1989),
Aden, Yemen
Senior Citizens is the name given to the old age people in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe and many countries in Asia to citizens of their country over the age of 60. I also wish to address our old people as senior citizens. I’m one of them.
Senior citizens in Yemen are people over the age of 60 and have retired from the civil or military services. It includes all others who have reached that age.
The majority of Yemeni senior citizens especially those living in urban areas are suffering mental torture because of wanton poverty and rocketing costs of consumer goods. Their pension or end of service benefits are meager, and can’t make both ends meet. These poor senior citizens are regarded by the authorities as old age “nincompoops” who should spend the rest of their lives within the family environment, and wither away. This is quite unfair to persons who were active in their youth, and don’t want to be regarded as non-entities on retirement, and deserve a smooth transfer to a super-annualized life. A few professionals in Yemen over the age of 60 are still active though they’re out of circulation and abstracted.
Old age is a phenomenon which must come in everybody’s life. The government must give attention to the problems of the aged who are considered in Yemen tradition as the responsibility of the family rather than the community or the society as a whole.
Life span in Yemen is around 50 as the majority of Yemeni’s are illiterate and they lack knowledge and comprehension of advanced societies. They tend to feel the infirmity of old age soon after 40. Qat also helps in the retardation of their health and physical fitness.
There are Pensioners and Pensioners Affiliated Organizations in Sana’a, Aden and Mukalla. The one in Sana’a is run by a philanthropist, while those in Aden and Mukalla are voluntary organizations. Their activities are limited to the care and concern of pensioners and they fight for their legitimate rights. There is an old age peoples home in Aden. It is run solely by Al-Ehsan organization and cannot accommodate more than 60 people.
Thus, there is a need to form a Senior Citizens Association at a national level. This association should have the base in Sana’a and branches and representations all over the country. It should have the following aims:
1) Accept all senior citizens as members, and assist them as necessary.
2) It should have an establishment in Sana’a and should employ senior citizens as much as possible in it’s management. Senior citizens should be able to devise and build the organization, and maintain it.
3) It should organize seminars on health care for Senior Citizens.
4) It should arrange special broadcasts from the TV and radio for the elderly.
5) It should fight for free medication and free medical treatment for the elderly in Government hospitals.
6) It should obtain concessional travel for senior citizens on buses and on Yemeni flights and other airline flights on special ID cards like those of journalists or students.
7) Obtain senior citizen discounts on electricity, water and telephone bills.
8) Write and obtain leading articles from foreign sources on the problems of old age. Compile and issue research papers, notes, brochures and publish articles on the subject of the senior citizens way of life around the world.
9) Seek membership of the International Institute on Aging whose headquarters are in Malta.
10) Ensure that social gerontology forms part of the curriculum at medical colleges in Yemen to enable physicians to deal with the common ailments of the elderly such as diabetes, backache, prostate trouble, dental care, broken bones, heart trouble, blood pressure, cataracts and glaucoma etc.
11) Medical students should be encouraged to study Geriatrics which is a branch of medical science dealing with old age, and it’s diseases.
12) Establish Old Peoples Homes and Destitute Homes providing free services to destitutes.
13) Ensure that special beds are available at all times in hospitals for elderly sick people.
14) Request for medical practitioners to make concessional charges for all senior citizens visiting clinics.
15) Encourage exercise as a hobby among senior citizens and ensure provisional and adequate facilities for their walking, swimming and other sports and games through concerned organizations.
16) Study and apply the local law of Social Security and Pensions, and suggest amendments as and when necessary.
The number of senior citizens in Yemen is rising rapidly, and will soon reach or is expected to reach the 50,000 mark. The health and care of senior citizens in Yemen is becoming a top priority. The Pensions Ministry should have a trained staff to understand the need for dealing with the elderly with the upmost care and affection. Their pension papers should be processed in time without hardship.
Commercial giants in Yemen like the HSA Group, Rowaishan, Thabet Bros. and others should assist in the establishment and the upkeep of an organization for senior citizens which could be formally backed and controlled by them.
Youngsters in Yemen, thousands of whom are jobless tend to disown their parents in old age, and cannot assist them financially. Their morale is low, many of them depend upon their parents’ income (pension), making life miserable for the elderly. Thus, an advisory bureau of the newly formed Senior Citizens Association should be created to advise parents and children on how to live together in these hard times.