Elders at work

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend | Elders - ZON PANN PWINT

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.

Daw Wyne.

Pho­tos: Sup­plied

U Khin Naing:

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