The nature of life for the elderly has changed considerably in recent history. With advancements in science and healthcare, human lifespan has substantially increased and the majority of people in the world can expect to live past the age of 60. Jamati institutions in Pakistan have embarked on numerous initiatives to support the elderly and create opportunities for interaction between different generations.
Today, individuals are spending a large portion of their lives in old age, having retired from work and dealing with declining health and stamina. As longevity continues to increase, the proportion of the elderly population will also increase. It is important that societies respond to this social and demographic shift, and develop initiatives and systems to care for the aged.
Improving quality of life for the elderly was one of the goals of the Golden Jubilee announced by Mawlana Hazar Imam in 2007. While delivering the Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University in 2015, Hazar Imam said, “People live longer, but they often find that they have outlived their resources. The developing world is now facing a major challenge: how does it care for the elderly? Even in more developed societies, social changes have eroded some of the domestic support that once eased the burdens of the aging. How, we must all ask, will we manage the new challenges of longevity?”
Today’s elderly are members of the silent and the baby boomer generations. Most of them grew up in joint families where the aged were taken care of by the younger generation. This social dynamic, which ensured support and companionship for those in old age, has weakened with the rise of the nuclear family. Due to a number of factors, today’s younger generations, primarily millennials and Generation Z, tend to have less interaction with their grandparents and other elderly members of their family than the generations that came before. In addition, they are likely to live on their own soon after reaching adulthood. Many often travel to new cities or countries in pursuit of career goals, education, and other passions.
As a result of these social changes, a significant number of elderly live away from their families which can often lead to loneliness and a lack of engagement with society. This has become one of the most serious problems affecting the aged, which negatively impacts both their physical and mental health. Lonely senior citizens are at a greater risk of dementia, depression, heart disease, cognitive decline, and numerous other health issues.
Intergenerational interaction is being recognised worldwide as an effective way to improve the lives of the aged. By engaging the elderly and demonstrating their value to society, these interactions bring them happiness, provide a sense of purpose, and help them feel positive about their role in the world. Research has indicated that interactions with the youth give the elderly emotional satisfaction and also have a positive impact on their physical health and cognitive faculties.
Simultaneously, those who have aged and possess valuable life experience can pass on their wisdom to those who are young. This gives youth a broader perspective on life, one which cannot be gained from people their own age.
In Pakistan, programmes, awareness sessions, and excursions are regularly planned at the local and Jamatkhana levels to enable seniors to keep pace with new developments in society, stay engaged, and have new experiences. Sporting events organised by AKYSB such as Pakistan’s Diamond Jubilee Sports Festival, JOSH Games, and Special Olympics often include sports and special segments for the elderly to keep them involved and healthy.
The Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture recently organised the Assemble Youth Camp in Lahore to promote awareness about career paths, educational ventures, a healthy lifestyle, and various social and environmental issues. Recognising the importance of intergenerational bonding, the camp also included a special session with 26 senior citizens that involved discussions, role playing games, and other activities to bridge the gap between the youth and the elderly.
Senior citizens are also invited to participate in events arranged for Boy Scouts and Girl Guides such as the Ismaili Chief Scout’s Day. A “Circle of Life” programme was recently held in Darkhana Jamatkhana, Karachi, for the Boy Scouts and senior citizens of the Jamat. Both generations participated in various activities such as sketching, storytelling, and coconut hockey. One of the senior participants praised the initiative saying that such events help create an environment where the aged are accepted.
Furthermore, the Ismaili Council for Pakistan and AKSWB, understanding the importance of exemplary elderly care, have established four nursing homes in Karachi for vulnerable senior citizens who do not have family members to support them. Two of these are multi-generational homes for both young and aged women who are susceptible and need a safe place to call home. This mix of age groups creates an environment of mutual support and companionship. Having younger women around keeps the senior women happier, energetic, and more likely to go out and engage with society.
Mawlana Hazar Imam has often expressed his desire to see the elderly living with peace, happiness, and dignity. The latter years of a person’s life can be spent pursuing personal growth, acquiring education, following dreams that were put aside during youth, and contributing to one’s family and society. In order to realise this vision, society must evolve to give the elderly support and acceptance, and our youth can play a vital role in this endeavour.
The manner in which we treat our elderly today, no matter which generation we belong to, is a clear indication of what will emanate tomorrow.
Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
P.S. This amazing video is being released as a lead up to the 12th annual Tapping World Summit, an online event that’s been attended by 2.5 million+ people worldwide! Tapping is a proven technique to help slow the aging process substantially (and to help improve all areas of your life).
The world's oldest living man is 112. His secret is to just keep smiling and never get angry
Chitetsu Watanabe turns 113 next month, but he got an early birthday present from Guinness World Records, which confirmed that he is the world's oldest living man.
He was presented with a certificate on Wednesday at the nursing home where he lives in Niigata, Japan -- he's 112 Years, 344 days old, according to Guinness.
Watanabe made a calligraphy banner for the occasion that says "World No. 1."
In an interview last year, Watanabe said his secret to longevity is "not to get angry and keep a smile on your face."
He also loves sweets, like brown sugar, but he mostly enjoys things like custards and the filling in cream puffs these days because he's lost his teeth.
Watanabe was born on March 5, 1907, and was the oldest of eight children.
He worked for a sugar company for many years, before working in a Japanese government agriculture office until he retired, Guinness said. He was also in the military in 1944 near the end of World War II.
He had five children.
Watanabe was an active gardener and grew fruits and vegetables until he was 104 and grew and exhibited bonsai trees until 2007.
The world's oldest living person also lives in Japan, and turned 117 in January, according to Guinness. Kane Tanaka was born on January 2, 1903, and was certified as the world's oldest living person and the oldest living woman last year.
São Lázaro Residential Structure for the Elderly (ERPI)
This week, in Porto, together with 7 groups of residents of the «Residential Structure for the Elderly (ERPI) of São Lázaro», a set of "participatory diagnostics".
The objective is to know what your perceptions about quality of life are, with a view to planning consequent actions with the information collected. This initiative falls within the scope of the collaboration between the Aga Khan Portugal Foundation and Santa Casa da Misericórdia do Porto, covering the areas of Education, Aging and Diversity.
The percentage of elderly people in Pakistan is expected to double to 12 percent by 2050, increasing the number of senior citizens to 40 million. This demographic transition impacts citizens of all ages. Therefore, it is important that senior citizens take the necessary steps to ensure they have a good quality of life financially, even after retirement.
Mawlana Hazar Imam addressed this in an interview with Quartz during his Diamond Jubilee in 2017, stating that “financial institutions ought to be a great deal more open to social support.” A longer lifespan means that people must save more for retirement. It is important for the elderly to save early on in life, so they do not face the burden of financially dependency on others. However, even if they were unable to save an adequate amount when younger, there are still options available in older age.
Many elderly couples in Pakistan opt to live with their children, and while familial ties are important for cultural reasons, they are also essential for economic survival. Living with one’s parents after marriage is rare in the Western world, but is the norm in Pakistan. Traditional society places a great deal of importance on cultivating familial ties from a young age, and so that transition from childhood to adulthood, under the watchful eye of one’s parents, can feel organic and natural. Giving an elderly couple the opportunity to assume the role of grandparents, in addition to parents, can allow them a larger role in the next generation’s lives. Grandparents can teach things that parents cannot, and looking after children can sometimes represent a caring activity in retirement.
South Asian parents are known for investing significant amounts of their income and wealth in their children’s well-being. As a result, they often fail to prioritise their own needs and rarely save adequately for their own retirement. However, with the economic instability experienced worldwide in the past decade, it can be difficult for the workforce to simultaneously provide for their parents and their children. The majority of households in Pakistan today are still supported by a sole breadwinner, which can restrict a household budget even more. In order to prepare for a situation like this, it is important for people to make the necessary arrangements to ensure that they are taken care of in their old age.
A good time to start saving for the future is early in one’s career, i.e. from the first year of paid employment onwards, and increase savings in proportion to one’s income over time. Those who are past that point in their lives should start saving as soon as is reasonably possible. The best way to save is by planning out finances in advance. One might begin by dividing expenses into three categories: essential monthly expenses, non-essential monthly expenses, and essential yearly expenses, i.e. property taxes, insurance, etc. Next, senior citizens should compare this amount to the pension they receive annually. If their expenses are almost as high, equal to, or greater than their income, they should adjust their budget accordingly by cutting down on non-essentials.
Furthermore, seniors should open a savings account with a bank, as opposed to accumulating savings in cash. Many banks in Pakistan offer incentives to seniors to open savings accounts with them. For example, various banks offer a savings account to pensioners without the requirement of an initial deposit, and an interest pay-out on a biannual basis. On the other hand, banks also offer no restrictions on withdrawals and a preferential rate of interest. Senior citizens should look into the options available to them and choose the one which best suits their needs. The Aga Khan Economic Planning Board for Pakistan recently organised a workshop entitled “Home Budgeting and Financial Planning.” Programmes like these teach senior citizens, as well as other members of an extended family, how to make financially smart decisions, which can help them save more for the future.
Quality of life should never be overlooked and, as a community, we have a responsibility to ensure that our elders are well taken care of. We must work in collaboration with them to make sure that they take the necessary steps to build a strong financial future. Jim Rohn, an American motivational speaker, once famously said, “One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.” Together, we can work to ensure that our elders have everything they need. After all, many of us owe our current stability in life to them.
Golden Age in Lisbon: Session on Grandparents and Grandchildren
On the 5th of March, Elderly Care promoted a session with the theme "Grandparents and Grandchildren", at the Ismaili Center, Lisbon, in synergy with the Aga Khan Education Board.
The session was invited by Dr. Mário Cordeiro, a pediatrician and retired professor of pediatrics and author of bestsellers such as "O Grande Livro do Bebé", "O Livro da Criança" or "O Grande Livro do Adolescente". In front of an audience of about 60 people, Dr. Mário spoke about the importance of grandparents, sharing various personal memories of his childhood and its impact on his cognitive and emotional development.
In a relaxed and interactive environment, the various participants had the opportunity to ask their questions and share their experiences. Interestingly, the participants demonstrated a high degree of passion and concern for their grandchildren, having discussed issues such as the role of faith in future generations and the impact of social networks and technology on the interaction of young people with society.
Grandparents are often considered the natural reserve of human kindness, because their ultimate goal is not only to love their grandchildren unconditionally but also to help their children in their children's educational process, thus speaking the voice of experience. However, there are often conflicts between parents and grandparents because there is no open communication of where the responsibility of the parents ends and where the grandparents' begins.
This session made it possible to elucidate the role of grandparents within the family and how to build a positive bridge between parents, grandparents and grandchildren, in order to celebrate unconditional love from generation to generation.
The final message of the session was that, despite living in a challenging and constantly changing context, we cannot give up on educating the youngest and that grandparents have a fundamental role in this process.
The Ismaili is pleased to launch the Adopt a Senior initiative, a way for members of the Jamat to be matched with senior citizens who could benefit from support and assistance during this time of isolation and uncertainty.
The current evidence suggests that, as we face the Covid-19 pandemic, senior citizens are the most vulnerable group in society. In many cases today, seniors live away from their immediate family, and so having somebody local who can stay in touch with them is important.
In Islam, the generosity of time, talent, and means is encouraged and highly commended, and the ethic of voluntary service is a long-standing tradition of the Ismaili community. The Adopt a Senior initiative is the latest platform to invite members of the Jamat to volunteer and support each other during this challenging and isolating time.
Many members of the Jamat have been asking how they can help others during this difficult time, and so this initiative provides a platform to ensure that all our seniors are being cared for as best as possible. The main task for volunteers is to stay in contact with their senior - call them on a daily basis, check that they are ok, and share with them any relevant information about the status of the pandemic in your city or country.
The logo designed for the Adopt a Senior initiative depicts a carer helping a senior citizen, housed inside a bubble of safety. The outstretched hand offering support symbolises the caring and compassionate nature which our community has espoused throughout our history.
We encourage seniors and volunteers to come forward and register. By working together we can come out of this experience stronger and united as One Jamat. If you are already looking after a senior, please use the form to provide your details so that we can log your support.
Register here if you live in Canada. For all other countries, click for English or French registration forms.
If you are, or know of someone who is not a senior citizen, but may require help and support during this time, please reach out to the local or national council in your jurisdiction.
“Not just old people: Younger adults are also getting the coronavirus,” a news network declared on its website last week. The words seemed to suggest that Covid-19 didn’t matter much if it was a scourge only among the old.
Even if the headline writer had no such nefarious intent, many people seemed surprised that two-thirds of the Americans known to be infected were under 65, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control, and that younger adults around the country also have become critically ill. After all, we kept hearing that 80 percent of the infected Chinese who died were age 60 and older and that the average age of death from the disease in Italy is 81.
No one wants young people to die. So why are we OK with old people dying?
Of course, we all will die, and since the ventures of the rich and famous to indefinitely extend life have so far come up short, death in old age is the best outcome available to us.
But most old people are not dying. Not only are the “old” getting older, but the risk of death in the next year for a 70-year-old man is just 2 percent, and an 80-year-old woman has only a 4 percent likelihood of dying in the coming year, according to the Stanford economist John Shoven. Comments such as “They’re on their way out anyway” are therefore more than colossally insensitive; they’re also colossally inaccurate.
And they harm all of us. Some countries responded slowly to the coronavirus threat because they deemed it a condition primarily lethal to old people “less worthy of the best efforts to contain it,” the World Health Organization’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted recently. That some of the national leaders abiding by this assessment are themselves in the highest risk group is testament to one of the fundamental truths of ageism: that it is pervasive among old people themselves in ways that threaten both personal and national health.
The news and social media have been full of similarly counterproductive messages, even cruel memes such as “Boomer Remover,” a descendant of last year’s dismissive and condescending “OK, Boomer.”
This matters in the era of Covid-19 because in a culture that persists in ignoring the last century’s huge gains in longevity and the obvious differences between young and much older adults, we are unable to address the needs of older Americans. It matters because the isolation necessary for slowing the rate of contagion will also cause irreparable harm to their health and have both short- and long-term economic effects. And it matters because when we accept the second-class citizenship of an entire category of human being, we set a precedent for treating others with the same disregard.
The effects of this isolation are being seen throughout the country. On Twitter, a young woman in Oregon described being called over to a car at her supermarket where a couple in their 80s sat scared to go inside lest they become infected; they handed her $100 to do their shopping so that they wouldn’t starve. One of my geriatrics colleagues who cares for people in assisted living facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area told me one patient had commented that his current living situation was “like being in solitary confinement and we have no idea for how long.” A photo picked up by many news outlets shows a Connecticut man holding a sign outside his wife’s nursing home window that said: “I’ve loved you 67 years and still do. Happy anniversary.”
Some of us will be spending more time with loved ones at home and others will be spending more time away from family during the COVID19 Pandemic. Any change to our daily routine can cause stress. Mindfulness is proven to help with stress, anxiety and depression. Aga Khan Health Board has developed this bespoke video to help us on our mindful journey.
Technology has been helping seniors to deal with some of the negative effects that social isolation, recommended by DGS, may cause.
The Internet and the various digital platforms currently available allow us all to continue to interact with family and friends, despite the social distancing recomended to prevend the spread of COVID-19.
This interaction is important and essential so that seniors don’t feel even more isolated. For this reason, Elderly Care activities continue to take place every week, through Zoom and Whatsapp platforms, with which seniors are already familiarizing themselves.
This week the following online activities took place:
On April 27th, another session of the “Active Memory” programme took place, featuring various themes, namely: procedures during confinement and the meaning and commitment of Bayat. Exercises to activate the memory of seniors were made, based on the structure of the Ismaili Center, Lisbon. Memory failures are on the list of problems considered usual in old age. Although it is not always a serious disease, forgetfulness should not be ignored.
Golden Age Activity Lisbon
On April 23rd, another online activity organized by Elderly Care took place. José Neves, coach and therapist from Bowen, and Gabriela Paleta, trained in Ayurveda medicine, were the speakers in this session. The topics covered were: autonomic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic), immune system, food and practices for managing thoughts and emotions, related to the current reality, where seniors are challenged to remain confined. The speaker Gabriela Paleta reinforced that “prevention is the best way to promote health”.
Awakening Activity (in synergy with AKHB)
On April 24th, another activity of the “Awakening” programme took place. Cognitive function is associated with the coordination of different areas responsible for brain activity. Among the benefits resulting from the cognitive activities of these sessions for seniors, the preservation of autonomy, independence and mental stability stand out.
Gymnastics and physical exercise
Online gym classes continue taking place for seniors in Lisbon and Oeiras, every Tuesday and Friday, and for seniors in Seixal, on Saturdays. In addition to keeping seniors active, physical activity can help reduce the impact of some of the illnesses that seniors are subject to.
In addition, seniors have also been exercising through a Whatsapp group, in which every day, at 12:15 pm, training videos are shared for them to replicate (in synergy with Youth & Sports).
Advancing age often brings sleep disturbances. The practice of physical exercise contributes substantially to a better, deeper and more regenerating sleep.
Golden Age Seixal Activity
On April 22nd, another Golden Age activity for seniors in Seixal took place, based on the theories of Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, a Japanese neuroscientist dedicated to map the brain regions that control emotions, language, memory and knowledge.
Seniors have devoted a few minutes a day to training the brain by quickly performing simple mathematical calculations and reading books aloud, in order to preserve mental clarity and delay the effects of aging.
Seniors (+60) who want to participate in the mentioned programs can contact the following Elderly Care members:
Spain's oldest woman survives coronavirus at 113 years old
A 113-year-old woman, thought to be the oldest in Spain, has said she feels fine after surviving a brush with coronavirus.
Video footage of Maria Branyas, who was born on March 4 1907, shows the super-centenarian speaking to the director of the care home where she lives in Olot, Catalonia.
"In terms of my health I am fine, with the same minor annoyances that anyone can have," said Branyas in the video. It was recorded Monday, a spokeswoman for the care home told CNN.
Branyas recovered after a mild case of Covid-19. Her battle started shortly after her family visited her on March 4 to celebrate her 113th birthday, the spokeswoman said.
The family has not been able to visit in person since then. Branyas has lived for 18 years in her own private room at the Santa Maria del Tura nursing home, which is run by the Institute of the Order of San Jose of Gerona, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, the spokeswoman said.
Branyas was born in San Francisco in the United States, where her father worked as a journalist, reports the AFP news agency.
Over the course of her long life she has survived two world wars as well as the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed more than 50 million people around the world.
Although Branyas recovered from coronavirus, two residents of the same home died of it. The situation at the care home has since improved, said the spokeswoman.
Spain's state of emergency, in effect since March 14, has strict confinement measures that remain in place. But with the infection and death rates now declining, the government has lifted some lockdown measures in certain parts of the country, on what it says will be a gradual reopening of activity.
But the initial lifting of these restrictions did not apply to Olot, where Branyas lives.
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