An MP has raised eyebrows, commenting on the endemic problem of isolation of elderly people by citing Black and Asian people as role models and their family structures in looking after their elderly.
Discussing how people could play a role in looking after an ageing population MP Simon Hughes said: “We need to learn from the Asian and African communities who understood the importance of ‘sacrifices’ and a responsibility to ‘look after your family to the end,’ he said.
He added that Britain had lost a sense of ‘obligation’ to care for loved ones.
The comments come in light of damning figures, which paint a bleak picture of how elderly people in modern Britain are being neglected, sidelined and their existence simply forgotten.
Asian communities have been unique in their ways in managing families, especially the elderly.
However, Abdul Aziiz, a 36-year-old Teacher from Oldham, whose parents are in need of care, believes that this is changing too.
“I visit my mother every other day. She is in her sixties is diabetic and requires assistance. All my brothers and sisters meet together as a family every Sunday and sometimes Wednesdays to help out.” said Abdul.
“When I started earning I would contribute to the family. When I did not work, my family supported me, both emotionally and financially. I feel responsible for ensuring that my parents are looked after well.”
High rates of unemployment have meant that people are venturing outside of their localities to find work. In some cases, having to move to completely new areas in the country, in the process re-defining the traditional set up where parents had their siblings accessible for their needs.
“Times have changed. There are still traditions, which play a role in certain homes. But some are leaving the tradition of sticking together,” highlights Abdul.
Abdul is driven by a religious ethos to look after his parents in their old age where they are in need of care. He points out that contemporary British values don’t place a similar emphasis of looking after the elderly.
“With some people the idea that children should be independent and find their olives outside of the parental home bites back in later life. Their children’s independence costs them dearly” comments Abdul.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also echoed comments similar to those of MP Simon Hughes last year when he said that he was struck by the ‘reverence and respect’ for older people in Asian cultures and that in those cultures residential care for the elderly is a last rather than a first option.
And the social contract is stronger because as children see how their own grandparents are looked after, they develop higher expectations of how they too will be treated when they get old.
A study carried out last year highlighted the following:
– Around 800,000 elderly people in England were chronically lonely
– Two fifths of all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company
– Between 6% and 13% of people aged over 65 say they feel always or very lonely
– Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone