‘Senior Citizens’ is a term used for elderly people above sixty (60) in Pakistan. Aging is the inevitable biological process that every living organism has to endure throughout its lifespan. For human beings, as the saying goes, the older we get, the wiser we become.
The connotation of wisdom with age is fascinating; the older trees are called ‘wisdom trees’, the ultimate source of inspiration, stillness, and hope for any who seeks shade underneath.
However, even the wisdom tree requires proper care and adequate environmental conditions to survive the tests of time. Likewise, it is pertinent to actively strive to integrate these Citizens into our community through legislative, moral, and ethical measures.
This article by the Iqbal Institute of Policy Studies will discuss the rights of senior citizens in the context of universal rights and the legal framework of Pakistan.
Even though Senior Citizens possess the same universal rights as the younger generation, certain rights are particularly relevant to facilitate the experience of aging. These universal rights include the right to dignity, the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to freedom from violence, the right to health, the right to social security, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to work, and the property right.
It is essential to understand that the natural rights accrued to a person by being human do not change with age (GAROP, 2021). Nonetheless, they face institutionalized discrimination in all walks of life, specifically with access to justice in healthcare, employment, social security, inheritance, etc.
Besides, they become physically dependent on other people, contributing to the increase in violence and abuse against them. This adverse discrimination based on age is called Ageism, also defined as the denial of fundamental human rights of Senior Citizens, possibly one of the most prevalent prejudices despite these Citizens’ professed value and respect in many societies (International Longevity Center, 2006).
In the context of Pakistan, the country has ratified the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA, 2002), which focused on building an all-age inclusive society. Additionally, Pakistan is dedicated to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which endorse and support age-inclusive development worldwide.
Rights of Senior Citizens by the Legal Framework of Pakistan
On a provincial level, three provinces of Pakistan have promulgated laws for the welfare of Senior Citizens: the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Citizens Welfare Act 2014, the Baluchistan Senior Citizen Act 2017, and the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act 2017.
Moreover, the province of Punjab has also passed the Senior Citizens Welfare and Rehabilitation Bill 2013, which is awaiting approval. These legislations include the provisions for establishing a Welfare Council (s) for Senior Citizens, social security, welfare funds, eligibility for the Senior Citizens Card, and the establishment of old-age homes, etc.
The President of Pakistan, Mr. Arif Alvi, recently signed the Islamabad Capital Territory Senior Citizens Bill, 2021 (the “Islamabad Bill”).
Per the Islamabad Bill, a person becomes eligible to apply for the Senior Citizen Card at the age of sixty (60), which grants special privileges, including free-of-charge entry into public museums, libraries, parks in Pakistan, and recreational facilities; provision of express lanes; financial support; condition of medical services; and privileges at Government hospitals. These facilities for senior citizens in Pakistan will have a positive impact on the well-being of these citizens.
It also makes them eligible for discounts on the purchase of medicines, domestic travel fare, and exemption from payment of income taxes if the prescribed conditions within the law are satisfied. Additionally, a Welfare Fund is established for the welfare and protection of Senior Citizens.
Moreover, under the Islamabad Bill, the parents who are unable to support themselves from his/her earnings or the property they own can apply for an Application of Maintenance against the legal heir who’ll inherit the property after the parents’ death.
Other developments include certain relaxations regarding property transfer for Senior Citizens, retirement benefits, support for impoverished citizens, including the establishment of old-age homes (Dar –ul- Shafqat), and the establishment of a committee for Redressal of Grievances of Senior Citizens.
The priceless wisdom and life experiences of Senior Citizens are the communal characters of any society, contributing by countless capabilities throughout childhood, youth, and the best years of their life.
Although ageism is as pervasive as racism or sexism, the laws related to Senior Citizens are not implemented on the ground level. Pakistan has made significant progress in codifying laws for Senior Citizens on the Governmental level.
However, there is a specific implementation gap and an information gap about the proper enforcement of these laws on a grassroots level. Even though our culture preaches immense respect for the elderly, the pervasive issues of ageism persist in Pakistani society.
For instance, a lack of awareness of the behavioral patterns of aging leads to abuse and violence against Senior Citizens in their homes. The legislation about Senior Citizens is a great initiative; however, practical steps must be taken to integrate Senior Citizens into society.
Ultimately, ‘we must remember that old age is not a disease – it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses’ (Magie Kuhn).
What are the five most crucial rights of the elderly?
The rights of the elderly are crucial to ensuring their dignity and well-being. They have the right to be treated with respect, access healthcare services, participate in social activities, have financial security, and make decisions about their lives. These rights protect seniors from abuse, provide essential healthcare support, promote social engagement, and ensure economic independence.
What are the rules for senior citizens?
Rules for senior citizens vary but often include protections against elder abuse, special healthcare programs, financial benefits like pensions, and accommodations for housing and transportation. These rules aim to provide a safe and supportive environment for the elderly while respecting their autonomy and unique needs.