“Elderly people are not expired human beings, they need support”

Dear Editor,

After I heard of the 71 year old man who was found dead in a pool of water outside his house at Sopu, I felt strongly that I should express my concern for the need to provide support for the elderly in Tonga, although this occurred to one elderly man and it seems like an isolated case but his death could have been prevented if there was someone around to take care of him.

This Saturday 7th of April is World Health Day and the topic is active aging. The emphasis of this year’s theme “good health adds life to years” highlights the need to take good care of all stages of our life course to ensure a healthy active life when we age.

Unfortunately for some of our elderly people they are prevented from living an active life because of lack of supportive environments like social services, that could provide care and support for them.

Furthermore, many of them have developed a non communicable disease which causes the onset of other non communicable diseases and its complications leaving them either blind or with one limb or no limb at all to allow them to move freely around and protect themselves in one case an elderly disabled person died in a house fire because of limited mobility to allow one to get to safety.

There are a lot of stories  of elderly people  neglected by their family members, loneliness after the death of a spouse or child and depression because they are excluded from everyday decision in life  that if we have time we will find lots and lots of these kinds of sad stories in our community,

In addition I think our culture imposes stereotypes on an elderly person labeling them “vaivai” or old when the person is not old but is still active and strong, in my opinion calling an elderly vaivai is emotionally and psychologically harmful to the elderly’s mind because it means he/she is out of date and not useful anymore, we need to challenge the use of stereotypes against the elderly person because it is wrong and it is discrimination against them why not provide skills and education for them and give them work and encourage them to continue living?

One day we will be an old person and if we do not do something now some of us might end up in a similar situation, fortunately there is a plan call Tonga Social Service Pilot (TSSP) aimed at delivering social services including health care and education to elderly vulnerable people living in poverty. The activity described in this plan includes case management services, social care home visits and health promotion and disease prevention, this is a great plan and I hope that it will work out well for the elderly of Tonga; personally I wish this pilot plan will roll out to be an actual social service department very soon in Tonga.

 

Naomi Fakauka

Advocating for a better life for elderly people in Tonga

2 Responses to “Elderly people are not expired human beings, they need support”

  1. Fataimoemanu Soakai says:

    This is one of the sensitive issues in our culture and I strongly agree that this should be everyone’s concern.

  2. Monitana Luani says:

    Hi Naomi,
    Thank you for raising awareness on our elderly population. It’s common that the elderly doesn’t get alot of publicity however, this in an area that requires alot of support. I’m keen in knowing more of your Tonga Social Service Pilot (TSSP). My email address is: monitana_luani@wsahs.nsw.gov.au. I’m keen to learn more of your project and offer any assistant should it be required.
    Malo e ngaue moe talamonu ki he kaha’u.

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