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HelpAge Sri Lanka is proud of what it has achieved over 30 years

02 Feb 2016

HelpAge Sri Lanka 30th birthday

HelpAge Sri Lanka celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. Since our founding in 1986 we have travelled far towards achieving our goal of making Sri Lanka a better place to live for our senior citizens.

We are proud to be known as the leading Sri Lankan NGO working to improve older people's lives. We give voice to their opinions that would otherwise scarcely be heard by decision makers.

Our membership of the HelpAge International global network has enabled us to share our experiences beyond our shores and influence the global agenda on ageing - an issue that is starting to resonate more forcefully around the world.

The successes of HelpAge Sri Lanka

From our modest beginnings, over 30 years we have managed to provide healthcare to hundreds of thousands of older people. We are particularly proud of our eye care services, which have saved or restored the sight of countless older people through cataract surgery and other treatments at our dedicated eye hospital in the capital Colombo.

Meanwhile, through a partnership developed with the Ministry of Health, we have been able to reach out to the wider population of Sri Lanka. We screen older people with mobile medical and eye facilities and then organise cataract surgeries in state hospitals where necessary.

We have also been very active in helping older people achieve greater income security through our supporting small enterprises, as well as influencing the government to introduce a social pension for those aged over 70.

Age Demands Action campaigners in Sri Lanka (c) HelpAge International

The changing contexts for Sri Lanka's older population

Traditionally, Sri Lankan society has always respected its older citizens. However, the modernisation of the economy, urbanisation and migration have considerably weakened family support systems, which has had a negative impact on the welfare of the elderly.

Recognising these changes, we have partnered with the Ministry of Planning and the National Secretariat for the Elders of the Ministry of Social Services to implement aspects of the Protection of the Rights of Elders Act to eliminate age discrimination, and to improve the availability and access of health and care services for vulnerable older people.

But the government, or indeed ourselves, cannot do everything. How ordinary Sri Lankans can better cope with the realities of an ageing population and the needs of older family members cannot be overlooked.

Therefore, we have initiated innovative inter-generational projects such as our youth education programme to raise awareness of the needs of older people so that the younger generation are better able to provide care and compassionate support to their elders.

We have also been very active in establishing volunteer and home care training programmes, while the creation of numerous, active senior citizens' committees across the country is one of our most notable achievements.

What does the future hold for HelpAge Sri Lanka?

We are immensely proud of what has been achieved over the last 30 years, yet so much more remains to be done. Our work is not over. We must continue to strive for the creation of a more age-friendly society in our country.

We are in a very good position to push ahead with this. We have competence, commitment and expertise - the government has been so impressed by our work that they wish us to help them shape upcoming legislation to provide more tangible support and opportunity for our elders in the years ahead. HelpAge Sri Lanka remains committed to advancing the cause of older people in our country.

Find out more on the HelpAge Sri Lanka website.

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Author profile

Samantha Liyanawaduge
Country: Sri Lanka
Job title: Executive Director, HelpAge Sri Lanka

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.