There is no dignity for a nation that fails to offer its elderly the dignity they are owed for what humanity is if it does not dignify the wisdom of leathery hands that sowed the path for future generations.
In all the self-respecting nations, life starts after retirement, but in Lebanon, the majority of the 400,000 citizens over the age of 64 do not enjoy a decent life. The only comfortable are the lucky wealthy and political leaders that have amassed great fortunes that allow them to live in a lap of luxury. The latter rarely retire as they continue to bleed the country out of its resources.
The rest are enslaved to misery. Around 60,000 are still forced into manual labor that cripples their flailing bodies already bent down by the burden of tolling for decades. Those whose bodies fail them beg for charity outside the very institutes that should have housed them but didn’t because their ingrate children did not appreciate their sacrifices enough to pay for it. They are at the whim of others because the government failed to provide them with a pension.
It has been over 5 decades since the Lebanese civic community has been adamant about providing more than just end of a service package. Each retired elderly needs to have the means that will enable them to have a dignified social and economic independence till they leave this earth. Lebanon is legally obliged to do so after having signed many international treaties that demand just that.
Even those who are part of the system do not have it easy. There are over 200,000 elderly citizens that have no social or health coverage. The institutes that deal with them are often lacking in the basic human resources and equipment needed to provide proper care. Some have even been exposed to scenes for untold physical and psychological torture.
On the other hand, a study done with the Syndicate of hospitals showed that the average cost of taking care of one elderly citizen is 80,000 L.L. while the Ministry of Health only foots 26,350 L.L. of the bill and the Ministry of Social Affairs provides another 18,000 L.L. This caused the Cabinet to pass a decree in 2004 that covers this gap by allowing further monthly sums. However, due to political bargaining, the decree has lain dormant since 2005. The sad truth is that it is not a priority because all politicians are benefiting from the indignity of the elderly through various commercial organizations.
The elderly are more than a political pawn, but they remain forgotten, too weak to fight back and easily ignored. The young and able live under the delusion that they are mortal and will not succumb to age. This topic is yet another stain to add to the canopy of shame we all wear.