October 1 is observed every year by the United Nations as the Day for the Elderly to remember the millions worldwide in the autumn of their lives.
It’s meant to be a tribute for those who lived life as it came and never gave up – a rare opportunity to spare a thought for those now infirm, having weathered many a storm in the past.
Estimates suggest the world is teeming with the aged: currently their number stands at 605 million. In another 50 years, there will be 2 billion of them.
Many are in comfortable retirement. But an equal number, if not more, face daunting challenges. Some are destitute. Others have been forsaken by their family and friends.
As Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, reminded last year: “In the current fiscal environment, we must be vigilant in ensuring that the provision of social protection, long-time care and access to public health for the elderly is not undermined… I call upon governments and communities everywhere to provide more opportunities for their ageing populations.”
But such noble words, however, often find little resonance in the real world.
In India, for example, a survey by HelpAge India suggests that 31 per cent of the country’s elderly population have faced some form of abuse in their advanced age.
Old-age homes often offer a haven for those who are vulnerable and lonely.
The Ramthakur Home in the eastern city of Kolkata provides a glimpse into the world of elders.