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Flowers Essay

1726 words - 7 pages

mrs mah‐pow lg / bds_2014el:junreading
SEC 3EXP JUNE HOLIDAY WEEKLY NEWSPAPER ARTICLE 2 - FROM MRS MAH-POW ==================================================================
One of my father's older brothers, Manzur Anam, died last week. He was in his early 70s, and though the medical reasons for his death were many, it was loneliness that killed him.
There is a prevailing sense that the old in places like Bangladesh age with their large extended families around them, and that age gives them power, respect and status. It is in the West, we have been told, where ...view middle of the document...

Bangladesh self-identifies as a young country with an old culture. The nation itself is only 43 years old; we refer to ourselves as a young democracy, an emerging economy, a nascent political culture. Even our anxieties are those of a nation whose young dominate the national agenda: With a median age of 24, we worry that, if they are not educated and provided with jobs, the young men will become radicalised, the young women will marry too early. At the same time, we fetishise a past in which the family unit was large and capacious enough to absorb the needs of all generations.
So how will Bangladesh cope with its ageing population? The number of seniors is set to rise sharply, largely because of improved health care. It is estimated that nearly 44 million Bangladeshis - 23 per cent of the projected population - will be over the age of 60 by 2050. This demographic shift will force us to think critically about ageing, what the anthropologist Lawrence Cohen calls "the body in time". We still revere the old in the ways we always have, by referring to an old person as the head of the family. As the eldest man of his generation, we treated my uncle like the patriarch he was.
Yet he aged alone and out of sight. This is because while the ageing body as a symbol retains power, the ageing individual is more and more a person whom it is possible to neglect. He is relegated to his subdivision of the family property, his illness sanitised by the new hospitals we are grateful to have throughout the city, his solitary life witnessed only by the people paid to look after him.

mrs mah‐pow lg / bds_2014el:junreading
For Bangladeshis like me, living far from home, the question of what will happen to our ageing parents is a pressing one. For the hundreds of thousands of migrants who leave Bangladesh every year to work abroad, there are parents who are left behind, often to look after grandchildren. Those families back home are the ones who have to cope with the alienation of being left behind.
What is pressing for a middle- class family is all the more challenging for a poor one. In "development speak", there is a category of people in Bangladesh who are referred to as the ultra poor - the bottom 10 per cent who live without income or resources. The old and the disabled make up a disproportionate number of the ultra poor; even the aid packages designed to help them are sometimes ill-suited to their needs. There are means-tested state pension programmes for older people, but bureaucracy and poor access mean that enrolment is far lower than it should be.
To address the impending demographic shift, we must first admit that we are no longer a society that has automatic safety nets for the old, that the fantasy of better ageing is just that - a fantasy rooted in our denial of how old people are treated. We must then go about the hard work of creating new systems that address the challenges we are about to face.
We need better...

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