Volunteers come to the aid of the elderly

Muscat, Sept 24 – While the population of the elderly is expected to rise to about 13.1 per cent of the Sultanate’s total population by 2050, its health care system has been keeping a close watch on their health. The total population is likely to cross seven million by 2050.
Yet, there are occasions when some of the elderly (aged 60 and above) do not turn up on set dates at the health centres. This is where volunteers step in.
This was the initiative emphasised on World Alzheimer’s Day, observed by Department of Behavioral Medicine from Sultan Qaboos University Hospital in collaboration with Omani Association of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The audience comprised members of Omani Association for the Elderly from different governorates of the Sultanate, including Sharqiyah, Dakhiliyah, Batinah, Dhofar as well as Muscat Governorate.
“We check with the health centres on who has not been coming regularly and then we go and meet the elderly person. Recently we came across a person who was all alone. Neighbours provided him with food. He has a house, but needs maintenance. With the help of the municipality, we were able to achieve that. We, as volunteers, take turns to provide transport for his monthly visits to the health centre,” said Mohammed al Habsi, an IT specialist who is a volunteer at Oman Parents Care Team.
The team brings health care equipment from abroad and sell it to the families of the elderly at an affordable price. “Families want to give perfect care, but may not have the means. That is when we come in,” said Al Habsi.
Omani Association for the Elderly People, under the Ministry of Social Development, is headquartered in Nizwa but has many branches across the country. “We conduct surveys to look at the status of the elderly people,” said Maha al Rahbi, volunteer at the Omani Association for the Elderly People based in Bidbid.
“We have professional nurses in our team who regularly conduct medical checkups for the elderly in the community,” said Al Rahbi.
Another major initiative the elders eagerly look up to is the yearly trip to Mecca. The association and the volunteers take senior citizens to Mecca.
The objective is to ensure they don’t feel lonely. The only home for the elderly is in Batinah. “We do not want to encourage it but there are 38 members who have assisted living. Volunteers regularly visit them and sometimes we take other elderly people to visit them. They enjoy this immensely. Among our friends is an elderly person who joins us when we visit the home. He knows a lot of poems. You say a word and he will have a poem in his list,” said Al Rahbi.
“The gatherings have become a celebration of sorts,” said Al Habsi.
They recollected the story of the elderly person who was with his family in another GCC country but lost all his family members in a car accident.
Jokha al Farsi, another volunteer, ensures the trend of serving and caring for the elderly continues.
A member of the association, she visits schools to teach students how to care for elders in their family and how to serve them and speak to them so that they do not feel left out.
Nationalities of individuals do not matter for these volunteers. They have come across expatriates affected by age-related complications. “We are all humans,” they pointed out.

Lakshmi Kothaneth