April 7, 2011

BHUTAN: Old age homes, not a solution but a need

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THIMPHU / Tandin Pem / As I like It / April 7, 2011

 With the opening of Bhutan’s first old age home in Radhi, Trashigang, recently, Bhutan’s old moral dilemma resurfaced – whether old age homes sit comfortably on the GNH country’s conscience.

Answering the media’s question on this subject yesterday, Lyonchhen Jigme Y Thinley said old age homes are not the solution, but a need. “That is not what we should promote, but it is needed right now. It is a temporary arrangement,” he said.

Lyonchhen said initiatives are being taken by various parties to cater to the needs of the aged people who are abandoned by their families in the GNH country because of rural-urban migration.

Old people in the country, Lyonchhen said, are abandoned ‘not in a very big way, but the trend is beginning to emerge, the number is enough for us to worry.’

Lyonchhen added that the solution must be one whereby the aged will continue as in the past to be the object of reverence and respect within the family. He said the government will it worthwhile, not only socially and emotionally, even financially for families to look after their aged folks.

See related report in the BHUTAN OBSERVER
Old age homes, not a solution but a need: PM

Meanwhile, there are plans to establish another old age home in Bidung in Trashigang. Speaker Jigme Tshultrim said the new home will take in old people from all parts of Bhutan. He said, “This has become a necessity in view of GNH.”

One of the mandates of the recently registered civil society organisation called Royal Society for Senior Citizens (RSSC) is opening old age homes. Pema Tenzin, the vice president of the organisation, said old age homes are necessary for people without siblings and family members.

Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay said that, if old age homes give the senior citizens a sense of dignity and security in their final years, he fully supports the idea. But he asked why old age homes are needed in the first place. He asked, “Why don't our senior citizens have homes? Are our communities failing? Are we abandoning our parents? If so, why? Is it urbanization? Or are our values declining?”

Sangay Khandu, a National Council member from Gasa, said old age homes would generally benefit the Bhutanese society. “As a compassionate society, and a small one at that, we have always taken care of our own,” he said, adding that the subject of old age home is a ‘very emotional one to each one of us’.

Eighty-year-old Phurba from Dagana, who has been living in the patients’ guest house at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, said there is a genuine need of old age homes.

Phurba is the father of six children, all of whom died young. His wife also died young. He has no siblings.

Posted by Tandin Pem