Bhutanese parents or senior citizens have conventionally been relying on the protection of their children and their extended families (cousins or relatives).
Most parents and children preserve close ties and try to support each other, both emotionally and financially. Even outside the family, other community members have traditional ways of offering support and a form of social safety net.
However, modernization, urbanization and exposure to other western countries have exposed senior citizens to new risks and hazards. Increase in education and knowledge are disrupting the relationships between parents and children. This led to family fragmentation and social hazards.
Today, most people are living stressful daily life that they ultimately ignore their parents or grandparents and have no time for the maintenance of the elders. We see the senior citizens are neglected. Some are even mistreated and robbed off their properties and wealth by their own children.
The senior citizens become desolate finding it very difficult to eke out their livelihoods. In Thimphu Street, we see scores of elder citizens begging for money to fill their stomachs and other managed to refuge in lhakhangs or charity guest houses. This also exposed old women to sexual abuses (as reported by national newspapers). There are also stories that many senior citizens died from ill-treatments from their own children.
Therefore, to prevent the growth of the senior citizens from such woeful plights in our society and to ensure them financial and social security has become increasingly important to us.
The parents and the senior citizens need new opportunities and associations for their social protection that can build a spirit of social responsibility.
Let me suggest one protection that can mandate the care of elderly citizens, i.e. enactment of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act.
Under this Act, the law should envision the establishment of Tribunals and Old age Homes to ensure its functioning.
The ACT should seek to make it a legal obligation for every children and heirs to provide sufficient maintenance and ensure the financial independence and dignity of senior citizens who are unable to maintain themselves.
Those senior citizens living at old age homes should be given the rights to a maintenance tribunal seeking a monthly allowance from their children or heirs. If their children or heirs failed to do so, the parents can take their children to court to obtain maintenance allowance with the help from tribunal officers.