Published: The Malta Independent, Wednesday 13 February 2013. By Laiq Ahmed Atif, President Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta, firstname.lastname@example.org
Life is one continuous change; new generations replace the older generations; yesterday’s children are today’s youth, and today’s youth are tomorrow’s aged people, and thus life goes one. This is a natural circle of life which human beings experience during their life time.
The elderly people are an integral part of our society and they need our special attention and care. It is highly essential and we all need to learn that charity begins at home and therefore for many of us or rather for all of us, our passion for service must begin at home. Looking after the needs of our parents or elderly people and treating them with love and respect is an excellent example of service.
It is very important to take care of the elderly, paying them due respect, and never neglecting them. It is our moral, social and religious duty to always be at their service and give them a helping hand during their old age.
Some people describe the elderly as a burden on society and on the national economy, and some even feel their parents or elderly impinge on their family life and thus, they leave them in old houses and rarely pay them a visit.
I believe that elderly people are not a burden but their existence in our homes and societies is a blessing. Their prayers, good wishes, exemplary character become a role model for the young generation. Their presence with young generation teaches them how to face the hardships of life and how to face the challenges of life.
But a brief analysis will make it clear that the responsibility for care of the elderly is gradually shifting to the state alone. Nonetheless, the state can never buy them peace and contentment. The most terrible feeling of having been rejected, left out and abandoned, and the most painful realisation of a growing void of loneliness within, are problems beyond the reach of many to resolve.
In today’s societies, the need for homes for the elderly grows with the passage of time. Yet, it is not always possible for every state to allocate enough money to provide for them even the minimum requirements of a decent life. Physical ailments are much easier to cure or alleviate but the deep psychological traumas from which a considerable number of elderly members of modern societies are suffering, are far more difficult to treat.
A very close friend of mine once recounted to me a story which he experienced first-hand. He regularly used to visit his mother, who was residing at a home for the elderly. He said once he was with his mother, assisting her, giving her food and massaging her legs. An elderly woman, who was near, told him that he and his mother are both very lucky and blessed. He said that he wondered why she was saying so, and asked her the reason.
She called him near and told him to look under her bed. He looked down and found a bag. She told him to open it. And when he opened it there were a few old and torn cloths. She said this was all that she had in this world, adding that she used to be a very rich woman and had her own house. When her husband passed away, her only son asked her to sign some documents to transfer this property onto his name. She, who loved her son so much, signed those documents for him. She said that after a few days he packed that same bag and asked her to go with him. He took her to the elderly residence, left her there and never returned.
While she was narrating this, her eyes were filled with tears and the trauma and loneliness she was passing through, were apparent on her face.
This narration is really heart-rending, and one who hears it, does not remain without feeling extreme pain in his heart.
This real-life story demands from all of us to pay the due respect and attention to our parents and all the elderly people of our society. We should give them our time, share with them our good moments and never let them with feelings that they are abandoned or marginalised; on the contrary, let us make them an integral, loving and respectful part of our societies and communities and give them all that they really deserve. Let us pray for them, as the Holy Quran (17:25) sates:
“Incline thy arms with tenderness of affection and respectfulness before your parents and pray for them to God ‘O my Lord have compassion on my parents in their old age, as they brought me up lovingly when I was small’. ”