AT A CROSSROADS: Remember that old is gold, the elders are our living heritage

Sunday October 6 2019

A resident of No. 11 Street in Tanga City,

A resident of No. 11 Street in Tanga City, Bakari Ally, 95, sews clothes for his customers at his shop in a past incident. He said that he has undertaken the job for over seven decades. The elderly deserve respect, protection, care and support. PHOTO|FILE 

By Saumu Jumanne

If you meet an elderly person in distress known to you or not, our cultural norms dictate that we help him/her. We all know that as years of our lives fly into the wind, our bodies become weaker. It is most likely that at 70 you won’t be able to do things you used to do at 30, at that age one may only watch the younger generation in awe.

When you look at the elders you are staring at the people who brought to life the younger generation. But life is funny sometimes the offerings turn against those who bore them. We have seen well up children abandon their sickly and elderly parents! Yet, we know that one of the most important components of any civilization is how children, the sick and elderly are handled in day to day life.

In the western world, one of the hallmarks of their development is their social welfare systems that go into great length to ensure the well being of the children and elderly. This is contrary to some communities back home where children and elderly are mistreated or even killed.

In post-colonial, Tanzania great strides have been made, especially in caring the children under five years. For years, the government has been offering them free health services. This has resulted in a greatly reduced child mortality rate and subsequently a notably increased population. Yet, despite the progress made in the recent past, a few elements in our society have been taking us to the dark ages by mistreating or killing children and the elderly.

I am happy that Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa recently repeated the government stands on old people--that they would be protected and their welfare enhanced. He said, “the government will continue protecting older people against discrimination at the same time improving their welfare.”

In the past, in some rural villages, if older women had “red eyes,” they were accused of being witches, discriminated against and sometimes killed.


The premier was very candid that if anyone harms our elders, the government will deal with such individuals ruthlessly. The government has been supporting the elderly through provision of free medical treatments at government hospitals. This is really encouraging. The premier promised that elderly welfare was being looked at by the government even beyond the provisions of health services.

The premier spoke in commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons. He declared that “Improvement of the welfare of older people is one of the agenda of the fifth phase administration.”

We need to condemn and expose members of our society that still mistreat the elders. Once in a while, we hear of old women killed or raped due to beliefs to do with witchcraft. There should be zero tolerance for such vices.

In our African setting it’s sad that some people don’t take care of their elders, and they end up at the homes of the aged. If you find a person mistreating his mother or father, you must ask yourself what about others?

As families, it’s important we always unite to take care of our elders. After all, age can catch up with anyone. We all pray for a long life. And one day, we too can be too old and fragile. You can have all the money you need but due to old age, you are not even able to go and get it from the bank.

I have seen it in the faces of the elderly, nothing gives them more comfort than knowing that, their children are there for them. So as the government does its job in protecting the elders, we, the society must do our part. Our lives, our aspirations must be seen in how we treat children and the elders for the good of humanity.