The old deserve compassion, understanding and support but are we doing enough for their safety?
“Senior citizens know how to appreciate each day.” “Senior citizens can have fun after a lifetime of work.” “Retirement is the beginning of a new life.” There is a widespread belief that our elderly citizens can afford to sit back and enjoy life to the full. But the reality is different, even cruel, when one considers the fact that old persons are often subject to mistreatment in various ways.
An honest old man, 72 years, came face to face this year with three individuals in his yard in Camp-Ithier. They badly wanted to meet his son who, they claimed, owed them money. During the conversation, they broke a bottle of beer on his left arm and entered the house. They left with Rs 2,000. The old man was hospitalized as a result. So what? You may forget the whole thing as something routine. But when you consider that an old man has been made to pay for something he never did, you find that the situation strikes you as highly unjust. Victimizing an old man is in itself unethical. What is the point of settling scores with an elderly person and especially when he is innocent? Just goes to show that today respect for the old is eroding.
An old woman, 75 years, lives alone in Quatre-Bornes. On 26.1.2023, she was consternated to find an intruder in her house. He grabbed two gold chains worth Rs 50,000 and ran away after hurting her. She was traumatized with fear and panic. Old people are often easy targets of surprise attacks. We have reached a point in our country where no one is safe even in his own house. How can there be a feel-good factor in Mauritius when thousands of people are not completely at ease in their homes? Cameras or not, hoodlums may attack your family at any time in your absence. They can hide their identities thanks to masks or helmets or they may simply destroy the cameras. They are ready to go to any length to steal money and other possessions. In case your grandparent tries to shout, they may choke him/her to death. You can trust no one these days. It is the age of kaliyug. Unfortunately, not enough attention is given to the deterioration of law and order in the country because, to my mind, the authorities are more interested in preparing for the imminent general elections.
Towards the end of August 2023, an individual passed himself off as a jackfruit seller at a 67-year-old woman’s home in Chamouny. She said she was not interested. He asked for some water to drink. He followed her inside the house, held her by the arms, dragged her to her room and threw her on the bed. He even beat her up and vanished after taking some money. We must come up with bold measures to prevent such an odious incident from happening again.
What can be more damaging to your moral than being threatened to be killed by your own children who have fallen into drugs? The days when we were living in fool’s paradise are over. Today everyone knows that drugs are everywhere. We are not going to the roots of the problem. It is when your own child has fallen victim to drugs that you discover the full significance of the consequences. Your life is turned upside down. The drug problem did not begin yesterday. It has existed since a long time but today it is the magnitude of the problem and the inability of the authorities to address the issue that we find stunning and alarming. It was allowed to fester. Had previous governments shown real determination against the fight against drugs at the right moment, we would not have reached this crucial point today.
When the old persons refuse to give money to their children to consume drugs, they are threatened and beaten up. They constantly live with the fear of being killed. Many families are experiencing a nightmare.
Old people who go to the bank alone are sometimes stalked and attacked. For simple reasons, old persons can become unwitting victims. On 7.2.2023 a newspaper reported that a 59-year-old man, residing in Grand Baie, was walking along the lane where he lived when a stranger asked him Rs 10.00. He refused. Offended, the stranger threatened him with a knife under his throat. He took whatever money the victim had and before leaving, he injured the man in his left hand. Tomorrow it could be you. Law and order is at a crossroads in Mauritius.
Bad-intentioned people have found a means to extort money from the old. In April 2023 a retired person aged 62 was blackmailed. He had taken a liking for a woman in her forties on FB. The old man did not know that he was walking right into a lion’s den. The woman’s lover and his brother began extorting money (about Rs 500,000) and even his car from him. People are showing no respect to the old today. Only money matters.
Here is a real-life story. Recently an old woman in my village called on me one afternoon with a troubled face. She showed me a dirty, torn and crumpled Rs 50.00 note. It was obviously unfit for circulation. She had been to the market and a seller had handed it to her. She had not verified it. Old people are vulnerable and they tend to trust people easily. Some people make an abuse of this trust. The seller knew that the note was no longer suitable for use yet he found in the old woman an easy target to get rid of the note. The woman started lamenting that no shopkeeper would ever accept it. She was on the verge of tears. I took the note, gave her a better one; the next day I went to the bank and exchanged it for one in good condition. Every day old people are getting cheated in one way or another. I know about old people being charged for products whose dates have expired.
A sick society
Our educational system itself is sick. What is the state of moral values in our schools? And if we have moral values, is it being taught conveniently and regularly? If “moral values” is part of our curriculum, then, why is there bullying and other acts of indiscipline in our schools? Why have drugs infiltrated our schools? Today the word “respect” is losing its value.
Let us recognize the worth of the old and stop calling them “dinosaur” or “vie siko” and the like. Let us treat them with grace and dignity and do our best to contribute to their emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.
In “Le Mauricien” of Saturday 23.9.2023 I read about a 72-year-old man being robbed in Port Louis of Rs 3,000 by two women after a short conversation. The heart-breaking part is that the old man “n’était pas en mesure de les suivre à cause de sa condition physique”. Exploiting an old man’s physical handicap for a handful of money is not only shameful but also sinful. In Mauritius, moral values and uprightness and the fear of God are declining. One shudders to think of what our island will be in the coming years.