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Growing Older, Working Longer

Tehani Ariyaratne's picture

Courtesy Centre for Poverty AnalysisOn Jan. 7 from 2-4 p.m., there will be a live chat on Sri Lanka's aging population at Tehani Ariyaratne, from the Centre for Poverty Analysis, will be joining the chat. Here, she discusses her recent work on the subject.

The Centre for Poverty Analysis recently put the finishing touches on a photo documentary portraying an oft-forgotten side in the discussion on demographic transitions and the elderly: productivity.

In Sri Lanka, an individual above the age of 60 is considered 'elderly'. Our documentary focussed on individuals in two districts, Hambantota and Batticaloa, and captures a diverse, rural elderly population. During the course of our fieldwork, we met and spoke with many individuals about their ideas regarding the benefits of and constraints to maintaining an active lifestyle.

Most of them remain active and productive for many reasons; some enjoy the work they do, some need to work to maintain an income, some have dependents like children and grandchildren, some have medical expenses they need to cover, and some work simply because they are used to a particular lifestyle and routine. Apart from economic activities, there were those who engaged in recreational and community work, such as being involved in the local temple or kovil, helping out at shramadhanas, or participating in the local elders’ societies and other collectives. 

Physical and economic activity is not the only way in which the elderly contibute. There is also a wealth of knowledge and skills the elderly have, which can be transferred to younger generations. Many of our respondents from the field spoke of participating in community activities by providing advice and guidance, and helping their grandchildren with schoolwork, or mentoring youth entering their trade. These are valuable assets that need recognition, and can be harnessed by society, to learn from the experiences of these individuals.

Many of the elderly acknowledged the undeniable physical, emotional and mental health benefits they gained from remaining active, interacting with people, and engaging with the community. Though it is inevitable that the body slows down with age and wear and tear, staying active was a great boost to all aspects of their health. However, staying productive was not always a choice.

Most of the individuals we met in rural areas had little savings, pensions, or other forms of monetary assistance; many had none at all. Due to this lack of income, they were compelled to engage in economic activities. Some use their income to run their household; those who live with their children or other family members contributed their earnings to the household income; while still others helped the family cut costs by assisting with childcare and household chores. While these circumstances and lack of choice leave much to be desired, the additional income the elders obtain is always a benefit.

When talking about productivity, it is important to identify the many constraints and challenges elderly citizens face in their lives: declining health and increasing health-related costs, the need for adequate leisure and recreation time, and most importantly, the need for them to have options in the type of work they do and the ways in which they remain active. How can we, as a society, help address these concerns and constraints?

As a heterogeneous group, the elderly population faces many challenges, but they are an important part of a country’s citizenry. Their skills, knowledge and experiences need to be documented and used, and they need to be given the spaces and support systems to continue being productive in ways that are beneficial to them.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How can we recognize their contribution to society?
  • What changes are needed to ensure their health and well-being?
  • How can we improve conditions so they remain active?
  • Are we doing enough to ensure their rights?



Submitted by Samir Kumar Das on
I M A E C S E D (International Movement for Advancement of Education Culture Social & Economic Development) Mailing Address: 1/68, Sahid Gopinath Nagar, P.O. Mallickpara, Serampore, Hooghly, West Bengal-712203, India Mobile No. 091- 09038138077 / 09836382280 Date:04.01. 2013 Dear Sir, The above NGO is registered in Delhi vide Registration No. S-28635/95, under the Indian Societies Registration Act, XX1 of 1860. It has done a recorded work on development and promotion on Human Rights within the mandate of UNHRC, Eradication of poverty, Child & Women development, Child Rights, Child Trafficking, Obesity of Child, Child Education, Sustainable Development, Agriculture and Rural Development Peace Keeping, Prevention of Crime & Drug Addiction, Establishment of Democracy, Adult Education, Micro Finance Training, Control on HIV/AIDS, Health, Works for Pollution Control, Educational Courses, Cleanliness and Water Supply, Old Aged Day Care Center, Health care unit for elderly people, etc. IMAECSED is attached with many educational and other International organizations like ADB, World Bank, UN Foundation, UN Peace keeping, NGLS, UNCTAD, UNPAN, UNSG Selection, Global Fund, UNAIDS, CICC, WTO, HREA, Human Rights First, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, US Fund for UNICEF, Justice Initiative, UNESCO ECOVOC, Youth Service America, Clean up the World, DFID, Micro credit Summit Secretariat, GYSD Secretariat, CUSO, USA Freedom Corporation, Ford Foundation, U.S Institute of Peace, Civitas, Amnesty USA, Heifer International, CAFOD, Foundation Center, Bill & Milinda Gate Foundation, Clinton Foundation, US Chamber of Commerce, Pro Poor Org, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Grameen Foundation, ACCION International, One World, Opportunity International UK, Democracy in Action, World Economy & Development, Asia Society, Acumen Fund, Stop Child Poverty Org, Ashoka Org, and many other International Organisations. We are invited for World Bank & IMF meetings, ADB, UN AIDS High Level Meetings, Peace Keeping Trainings at American University, LDC Meeting, UN-DPI meetings, etc. We are very much interested to remove the poverty and involve the elderly people on work of the society by providing them facilities for food, health care and shelter in case of need and various other opportunities to live properly. In this respect we need your help serve them best facilities. Sir, I am an International experienced Advocate for a long 31 years standing in the Legal profession and social activities, an Ex Vice Chair of the International Legal Consultant Committee of the American Bar Association. I am the principal founder and present Chairman of the said NGO. With regards. Samir Kumar Das Advocate & Chairman IMAECSED (Now not working) E-mail:[email protected] Mobile: 09836382280 / 09038138077

I am Chairman of IMAECSED actively involved in the above activities and engaged with OHCHR, UNODC, UNV and many other international org. including World Bank. I am very much interested to actively involved with World Bank activities.

Submitted by Samir Kumar Das on

We need your cooperation and Financial help along with active involvement

Submitted by Samir Kumar Das on

IMAECSED promote diversity, tolerance in society while protecting, monitoring, evaluating and strengthening culture, science,environment, and climate change, Sustainable Development, Disaster risk reduction and support all activities
and concerns that make a vibrant civil society. Beside the above, since1995 we entered in the market as a non-profit charity playing a proactive role for various development areas through quality education, health, HIV/AIDS, Gender Equality, child Trafficking, Consumer Protection, etc. We encourage to campaign and motivate people to combat against corruption, Crime and Drug addiction, restore Peace and Democracy.
Our NGO is newly having Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC. Oserver Status with UNCTAD, Partnership with UNOP,UNESCO, Member of UNODC, CIVICUS, WSSCC, UNFCC, Participant of UN Global Compact and actively engaged for regular activities with many UN and other International Organisations. Our application to UN DPI for Associate is on process.

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