Equal Ground

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Protection for the elderly

Our Members of Parliament should talk about legislation to toughen penalties against those who commit crimes against the elderly.

A 62-YEAR-OLD coffee shop owner from Ipoh reportedly lost RM9,700 after he received a call from an alleged Bank Negara officer, who told the senior citizen he had some outstanding credit card bills to pay.

Shocked, the elderly man said he never owned a credit card.

The purported central bank officer insisted that the elderly man’s particulars may have been used by syndicates and convinced him that he could help resolve the matter.

Bewildered and gullible, the older man withdrew every ringgit he had in three bank accounts and, as instructed, deposited the sum into an account belonging to a certain “Datuk” supposedly for safekeeping.

After this, he never heard from the so-called bank officer again, and it dawned on him that he had been cheated.

Far too often, scam artists perceive senior citizens as vulnerable and relatively wealthy due to either their access to Employee Providence Fund (EPF) accounts, government pensions after long years of service, or possible big savings.

As a result, seniors are easy targets of a wide range of consumer fraud scams.

Financial exploitation, however, is not the only threat to the seniors’ safety.

Physical and sexual abuse of elderly citizens also happen, often at nursing homes.

Shockingly, there were also cases of senior citizens facing abuse at the hands of their kin or children, frequently due to property disputes.

This writer wonders if these things happening to the elderly have anything to do with a perception among some people that “old” is “unhealthy”, “useless” or “lifeless”.

But look at former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He is approaching 90 yet, from the way he thinks and conducts himself, he shows he can be more visionary and creative than some people decades younger than him.

In case my fellow Malaysians have forgotten or are not aware, we have a National Policy on Senior Citizens that stipulates “old” as being 60 and above.

This definition is based on the calendar age rather than the physiological, biological or functional aspects.

The policy, among others, seeks to establish a society of the elderly who are contented, dignified and possess a high sense of self-worth.

It spells out how it will take care of and protect the senior folks.

And these include “enabling the elderly to benefit from institutional services aside (from) providing care, protection as well as social and mental stimulation in a safe and comfortable environment.”

It pledges also to help the elderly in receiving social and legal service “to advance the autonomy rights of the individual, their protection and care.”

In the case of the senior citizen who was cheated of his savings, the victim did the sensible thing –reporting the matter to the police.

But, seriously, senior folks in distress need more than just police attention. They need some professional legal help or even counselling that should be just a phone call away.

Some countries, this writer understands, have such help lines for the elderly, staffed by attorneys who take the calls.

We could take a leaf from these “hot line attorneys” who give legal advice to senior citizens who are socially or economically-needy.

This writer also feels that aggressive action to prosecute those who prey on seniors as well as educational brochures and talks could help root out abuse against the elderly.

It appears then that as the elderly population grows in this country, protecting older citizens would be an increasingly important responsibility of the Attorney-General’s office.

At the same time, our Members of Parliament should be talking about legislations to toughen penalties against those who commit crimes against the elderly.

Shah A. Dadameah is an Associate Editor at News Desk. He learned as a young adult that “it’s not how many years in your life that count, but how much life you have in your years”. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Tags / Keywords: senior citizens , protection

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