Elders at work
WHEN seniors reach a certain age, society portrays the elders enjoying their lives, caring for their grandchildren or pursuing their passion. Unfortunately for many this is not the case. When life demands it, elderly keep on working.
Nicknamed Amay Wyne (mother Wyne) by her customers, Daw Wyne is 72, sweet and healthy.
Every morning, she fills her four-wheel trolley with bunches of bananas, bundles of green beans and roselle she bought at a market in Dagon Seikkan township. She then pushes her trolley from street to street till her vegetables sell out in the evening.
She, a mother of eight grown-up children, has been working to take care of her sick husband paralysed by a stroke years ago.
“All of my children have their own families and they have their own struggles. I don’t want to burden my children. That’s why I have been making an honest living,” explains Daw Wyne.
As a soft-spoken woman, when her trolley reaches a new street, she blows a hand-made plastic loud speaker to alert her customers, her loud speaker sounding like a cow. “One of my customers made it for me,” she says. Every day, she wakes up at 5am and prays. She walks her husband, eats breakfast and goes out to buy bananas and vegetables at a market in Dagon Seikkan. She leaves home at 8 am and returns around 6pm, walking tirelessly till her merchandise sells out, rain or shine.
By now, she has her own customers and regulars from the 92nd, 93rd, 89th quarters of Dagon Seikkan await her trolley to purchase bananas.
“They want to help and support me. They buy my bananas even if the bananas at the market are cheaper than mine,” she adds.
Yet, she doesn’t earn much from selling bananas. A bunch of bananas just earns her K200 making it hardly profitable. Thankfully, her costumers support her and sometimes let her keep the change.
“I am not rich but I am happy and healthy as I walk the whole day pushing the trolley,” she says.
Amay Wyne got married in her early 20s and started selling vegetables at 24 to take care of her children. Now she looks after her husband.
“When I leave my husband alone at home, he feels sad. If I can’t work, we both wouldn’t survive. When I work, I can feed him the mango he likes and bring fresh flowers for my shrine,” she explains.
Like Daw Wyne, 80-year-old U Khin Naing spends his day working. Between Pansodan and 36th streets on Anawrahta Street, he puts a weighing scale on the roadside and collects K100 to weight passers-by.
“I don’t want to beg my children for money. If my daughter supports me, her husband will begrudge and if my son gives me money, his wife will begrudge. So I work,” says U Khin Naing, father of four.
He is not the only one in this situation. Traditionally in Myanmar, children take care of their parents as they grow older. But due to poverty, many cannot do so as they first provide for their households and seniors unable to rely on their family keep working to survive, he adds.
U Khin Naing is a retiree. He worked for the Yangon City Development Council as head of market and retired at 60. After several years of retirement, he realised his pension was not enough to feed his wife and daughter. Last May, he bought a weighing scale that earns him between K5000 and K8000 a day.
Working makes him healthy, he says. Living in Dala, on the other side of Yangon River, he used to rely on trishaws to get the jetty. Since he started working he feels strong enough to walk.
Like him, many retired citizens cannot survive on their pension. Civil servants can retire at 60 while for others, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement provides a pension for those 85-years-old and above. However, Life expectancy is Myanmar is below 70-years-old. As of this year, the ministry is working to make older citizens aware of their rights as it relates to pensions by campaigning in the streets and raising awareness. Early this year, the social welfare ministry requested a budget to support the pension of 140,000 citizens 85 or older. The quarterly social pension amounts to K30,000 per person with a household registration and an ID card. In the past, citizens had to be 90 or older to be eligible.
U Khin Naing: