Today International Day of Disabled Persons is being observed to protect and promote the understanding and dignity of people with disabilities. In the West, many provisions are in place to facilitate people with disabilities. In Third World countries, most such facilities exist on paper only. Disability affects people of all age groups though old age is most susceptible to be handicapped. With life expectancy at 66.48 years in Pakistan, there is a large proportion of the elderly suffering from disabilities.
Our government has failed to provide facilities to such people. Reports say the K-P government has not provided senior citizen cards to around 2.8 million elderly people and nearly half of them suffer from disabilities. The K-P Senior Citizen Act 214 states: “A senior citizen may, on completion of his sixty years age, apply for the senior citizen card.” The elderly having the senior citizen card are entitled to certain privileges like free entry to public museums, libraries, parks and recreation facilities; financial support for the deserving, separate counters in hospitals, concession in medicare and medicine charges, etc.
Experience, however, shows that the government has failed to make serious efforts to ensure these facilities to senior citizens. An elderly woman, who runs an NGO, says most elderly people suffer from diseases and need medical treatment, which a majority cannot afford. She has been visiting the social welfare department for the past two years to obtain senior citizen cards but to no avail. Around 46,000 senior citizens have visited Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar alone for treatment from January to June this year. Most elderly people suffer from joint pain that makes it difficult for them to climb stairs or pedestrian bridges. But nothing is in place to help them to negotiate such difficulties. One should be optimistic considering the sayings: The golden age is before us, not behind us. The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but one is young.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2019.