Don’t write off the dis­abled or el­derly

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

Can you re­mem­ber a time when you felt in­vis­i­ble? When, maybe, you were suf­fer­ing, but no-one seemed to no­tice?

When you might as well have just dug a hole and buried your­self, for all any­one seemed to care?

Worse, have you ever felt a bur­den on oth­ers?

I re­cently at­tended a con­fer­ence run by the Dis­abled Per­sons’ As­sem­bly and was made acutely aware of the some­times painful at­ti­tude so­ci­ety seems to have to­wards any­one who is dif­fer­ent, es­pe­cially if there is some kind of phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of dif­fer­ence.

The re­ac­tion of peo­ple varies. There is the over-pro­tec­tive­ness and want­ing to do ev­ery­thing for the dis­abled per­son so the ‘‘dif­fer­ent’’ per­son does not have to be ac­knowl­edged.

Then there are peo­ple who seem to equate a phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity with men­tal de­fi­ciency – they have never heard of Stephen Hawk­ing maybe?

Much of this at­ti­tude stems from ig­no­rance and from a feel­ing of help­less­ness in the face of an ob­vi­ously in­cur­able con­di­tion.

As an el­derly per­son my­self, I can ap­pre­ci­ate how much of this sit­u­a­tion re­lates to the el­derly as well.

As we grow older, we of­ten re­quire more help to get around or to live an or­di­nary life.

We have the added prob­lem that we are con­sid­ered by some as past our use-by date and there­fore no longer of any rel­e­vance in so­ci­ety.

But, whether we are dis­abled or merely el­derly, we have a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to make to so­ci­ety, if only so­ci­ety would see it.

Pope Fran­cis, in a re­cent au­di­ence, said: ‘‘We live longer thanks to med­i­cal ad­vances, and the num­ber of el­derly has mul­ti­plied, but our so­ci­eties are not or­gan­ised enough to make room for them, with proper re­spect and con­crete con­sid­er­a­tion for their fragility and their dig­nity.’’

In our view, he has hit the nail right on the head.

He added: ‘‘As long as we are young, we are led to ig­nore old age, as if it were a dis­ease to be taken away. Then when we be­come older, es­pe­cially if we are poor sick and alone, we ex­pe­ri­ence the short­com­ings of a so­ci­ety planned on ef­fi­ciency, which con­se­quently ig­nores the el­derly.’’

To say noth­ing of the dis­abled, I might add.

Do our own cities (re­mem­ber­ing that our mem­bers re­side in neigh­bour­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties) make suf­fi­cient room for the el­derly and the dis­abled?

Or are we so fix­ated on eco­nomic growth and in­ter­city ri­valry that the less phys­i­cally and men­tally able fall off the perch, as it were, and lie on the ground, un­seen and un­heard?

I would be in­ter­ested in your opin­ions.

To Pope Fran­cis, again, goes a fi­nal warn­ing word on this topic: ‘‘Where there is no hon­our for the el­derly, there is no fu­ture for young peo­ple.’’

Last month, I en­deav­oured to give our mem­bers a run­down on Grey Power, where it came from, how it has changed, and what we are try­ing to achieve for them and all el­derly now.

This month, given the close­ness of An­zac Day fol­low­ing our an­nual meet­ing, we are to have a com­mem­o­ra­tion of all those peo­ple who have given their lives in de­fence of free­dom and democ­racy in our name.

We would live you to join us, par­tic­u­larly if you count rel­a­tives or friends among their num­ber.

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