I am living with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson in New Baneshwor in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Before retiring, I worked for the Nepal Scouts, as a teacher and as a director within the Ministry of Education. I still do advisory and consultancy work organisations including International Child Resource Institute and Nepal Scouts.
How did you get involved in campaigning for older people’s rights?
After retirement, I and seven colleagues decided to do something for older people. We established Jestha Jana Samaj in 1995 with the aim of making our life in old age active and productive. Since then, I have been campaigning for rights of older people and on different issues they are facing. I started as a treasurer, and now I am the chairperson.
I was first inspired to do this work when I visited England and saw older people enjoying their old age with all kinds of facilities and good care services.
Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your age?
People show me kindness due to my age, but I am not keen on such behaviours. When my family stopped me going out because of my age for the first time, I realised I was no longer free as I used to be. Beside that, I have not experienced any discrimination myself.
However, I have witnessed many older people being discriminated and abused by their relatives and neighbours. It distresses me. If I see such discrimination, I raise my voice against it. Sometimes, I express it by writing poems, articles or stories.
Tell us about your proudest moments as a campaigner
My proudest moment was when we conducted an eye camp. It helped many older people get their sight back. They expressed their gratitude. It was memorable and motivated me to continue campaigning.
I have participated in many marches and demonstrations for older people’s issues over the past 10 years. Every event went well. We have met many decision-makers. They appreciate our efforts and promise to come up with better policies and programmes for older people.
What are you campaigning for right now, and how are you doing it?
I am campaigning for older people’s rights and encouraging other organisations to work for older people. I am asking for better environments for older people, such as age-friendly roads and parks, and free health services.
Recently, I raised my voice for older people through writing. I believe it is the best way to encourage government for better policies and programmes, and to raise awareness among the public.
What effect has campaigning had on you as an older person?
I am very satisfied with the work I am doing now. I want to continue it as long as I can. Campaigning has not only empowered me, but many other older people.
How are things improving for older people in your country?
Things are improving for older people in Nepal. Today, people aged 60 and over get an identity card giving them a 50% discount on public transport and in government hospitals. Two seats are reserved for older people in public vehicles.
The government doubled the old age allowance from 1,000 to 2,000 Nepalese rupees (US$14 to US$28) per month. There are more health facilities for older people and the number of organisations working for older people is increasing. International Day of Older Persons and World Elder Abuse Awareness day are celebrated as national events.
Gradually, attitudes are changing and people have started to respect and honour older people. The government has started to formulate programmes and policies focused on older people. Despite these improvements, there are many challenges we are still facing. From the difficulty to getting the old age allowance in rural areas and to a lack of a psychosocial support, to rights and entitlements of older people to abuse and ageism.
What needs to be done to improve the situation further?
The government needs to establish day care centres, clubs and parks for older people, formulate and strictly implement laws against elder abuse. It needs to formulate policies and programmes for older people, allocate more funds for organisations working for older people, and ensure all older people lead dignified lives.
An international convention on the rights of older people is the only instrument that can ensure equal rights for older people. The convention would provide a framework to change policies and programmes based on rights, equity and social justice.
Do you have a message for other older people around the world?
Age is just a number. Don’t let it make you feel weak and less important. Stay healthy, happy, active and productive. Make a social group with people your age and share your feelings.
And finally, what would your perfect world look like?
My perfect world is one with smart and dignified older people. Where no older person will die starving and where people recognise the skills, knowledge and experience of older people.
With thanks to HelpAge global network member Ageing Nepal.
Read more stories from older campaigners.