The issues of elderly people are being debated in many different circles in Nepal and at the international levels, among policymakers, human rights specialists, age care practitioners as well as by older people themselves.
At this juncture, Manogpost has got an opportunity to discuss the issues with Mr. Mani Kumar Arjyal from Eastern Nepal. He is a devoted social worker who started the second career in social filed after retiring as a banker. He led a nonprofit organization called Nepal Rural Development Society Center (NRDSC) after 1994 which later transferred to Nerude Micro Finance Bank Ltd. Mr. Arjyal has been successful to bring a far bigger impact on society through economic empowerment interventions and benefited around 1,34,000 disadvantaged families across Nepal.
Currently, he is more involved in leading several charitable and developmental projects associated with ageing including rennovation and building of old age homes, providing nutritious foods and health camps for health care, and policy advocacy for the rights of elderly people in Nepal.
- How is the current situation of ageing in Nepal?
In Nepal, people above 60 years of age are considered elderly. According to the 2011 census of Nepal, there were 2.1 million elderly populations and constitutes 8.1 percent of the total population. The percentage of elderly people in the years 1951 (5.0%), 1991 (5.8%), 2001 (6.5%), and in 2011 (8.1%) which shows a sharp increase in the number of elderly persons between 2001 and
2011. This shows that the ageing dynamics in Nepal and pose negative effects on Nepalese socio-economy in the future. As people get older there has been a risk of losing their rights and being rejected by society.
- Why do you think the problems of ageing and elderly people are increasing in Nepal?
There are several reasons for increasing the problems associated with ageing. One of the reasons is the fragmentation of the tradition of the joint family. Similarly, modernization, increasing migration of youths from rural to urban areas and too big cities or foreign countries for better life and opportunities is exacerbating the problems. As a result, elderly people are left at home are facing health and social problems. Similarly, despite the development of plan and schemes in favor of elderly people, the government lacks trained human resources and the fund for effective and efficient implementation of the legal and institutional provisions developed so far. The focus of the government in regard to the health care for elderly people is also neglected.
3. What motivated you to serve the senior citizens in Nepal?
Ageing is a natural phenomenon and pervasive which requires adequate attention including love, care, support, and long term schemes. However, the Nepalese society is in a phase of modernization. There is also shifting in the cultural norms and traditional family support systems which have caused considerable lacking in caring for elderly people.
They are isolated and facing several insecurities including stress and psychological problems. Similarly, we also observed a lack of rehabilitative and long-term care services for older people including disable friendly infrastructures of town and cities for the older populations.
Therefore, I would like to make the government as well as individuals and private sector accountable towards ageing issues and elderly people.
4. What could be the sustainable ways to mitigate the problems elderly people are facing in Nepal?
The problems and issues of elderly people should be equally owned to mitigate by all key stakeholders comprising government, I/NGOs, private sectors, society, family, and individuals. There should be coordinated efforts from Federal, State and Local level governments in the newly changed political context.
Out of all, bringing the policies and program of government into enforcement is indispensable. Human Rights of the elderly is key to protect values including dignity, independence, self-fulfillment, participation, and care.
5. What are the key activities you are carrying out for elderly people?
We have been organizing awareness raising and life skill programs so they could manage themselves and deal with problems including health issues which occur in isolation. Recently, we have also carried out research to assess the need and condition of the old age home in Morang district of Eastern Nepal and facilitated to produce a three years action plan. We are also urging the Biratnagar Municipality to speed up the construction of old age home constructed in support of the Non-Resident Nepalese Association in Australia.
I am also serving as one of the task force member formed to carry out the activities related to the senior citizen.
- What is your future plan in regard to serving elderly people in Nepal?
Along with other priorities, I am passionate to build a "Gram" (community) which offers comfortable and friend accommodation and fellowship to elderly people. In the meantime, there is also an urgency to enhance the facilities of the existing old age house and also adopt a gram(community) concept in effect.