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Elderly people live lonely life as young look to careers


As youngsters look to build their careers and independent lives, there are less of them who find time to look after their aging family members.

Despite a law that stipulates stringent punishments in Oman, several elderly persons are being forced to live a lonely life, in some cases being abandoned by their children, as an unfortunate impact of rapid urbanisation.

“Many youngsters have wildly varying relationships with their parents, and different feelings about taking care of them. Whatever the personal histories, they have an ethical responsibility to make sure that their loved ones are safe, secure and getting the attention they need”, asserts Dr Hamed al Sinawi, Senior Consultant, Old Age Psychiatrist at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.

The children’s preoccupation with work makes them feel neglected by the family members.

The demographic transition combined with a steady improvement in life expectancy is resulting in an increasingly ageing population.

The number of Omanis aged 65 and above is estimated to reach 75,000 by 2025, many of them will be unable to look after themselves due to ailing physical and mental health.

Data from the annual statistical book issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) shows that the average life expectancy rate of the total population stood at 78.2 by December 2019 up from 78.1 the previous year. And the Omani population aged 65 years and above was at level of 2.5 per cent in 2020, up from 2.4 per cent in the previous year.

This is expected to reach 10 per cent by 2025 and 20 per cent by the 2050. Compared to high-income countries, developing countries, including Oman, have less time to adjust to the consequences of an aging population. Many of whom will be unable to look after themselves due to ailing physical and mental health.

According to Dr Sinawi, leaving elderly parents uncared or abandoned is a common phenomenon reported in many societies where grown-up children, especially when reaching puberty becomes more rebellious towards their parents and insist on doing things their way, regardless, of advice and concerns expressed by their parents. Some of this phenomenon is attributed to what is known as the generation gap.

“We need to understand the needs of this population and adapt our services accordingly. The best way to come off this generation gap is to encourage open communication and discussion between the generations where each feels respected and accepted by the other group”, he advises.

Omani Penal Code promulgated by Royal Decree No 7/2018 that includes crimes and punishments affecting religion, family and society, calls for imprisonment for a period of not less than 10 days and not exceeding three months, and a fine of no less than RO 100 and no more than RO 500, or one of these two penalties if anybody leaves his/her parents abandoned or do not take care of them.

At the same time, the law provides exemption to those who are physical inability or the presence of their parents cause serious harm to them.

In this case, says the law, “those parents can be sent to elderly homes subject to they earn a verdict from a court or a competent authority who will decide on this matter”.

By the end of 2018, reports indicate, nearly 70,000 elderly people in Oman are under the Ministry of Health’s elderly care programme, which was formed to ensure that they are given prompt, affordable and continuous healthcare. This constitutes 44.8 per cent of the total elderly population in Oman.

Even though Oman doesn’t have nursing homes like many countries in the world mainly because elder care is viewed as a religious and traditional obligation for families and the community, the programme is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development, which studies the situation of the elderly from the economic and social perspective and the availability of caregivers at home.

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