This interview has been edited for brevity and context.
My career as campaigner for the rights of older people started after I retired from my job with the government. My retired colleagues and I wanted to do something for older people. So, we established Jestha Jana Samaj, a national NGO in 1995 to help people stay active and productive in old age. Since then, I’ve been campaigning for the rights of older people. It’s been 23 years, and I am still continuously campaigning on different issues that impact older people.
I was inspired to support literacy among older adults after attending a seminar organized by the Staff College in Lalitpur. The seminar included a training on Adult Informal Literacy. The training made me think how we should adapt this for older people. After the training, Jestha Jana Samaj started our own literacy program for older people. We later expanded the program to Dharmasthali, Kathmandu.
International travel has also motivated me to continue campaigning for older people’s rights. When I visited England, I saw how much better the lives of older people were there compared Nepal. Caregivers were taking care of older people and older peoples were enjoying their old age with all kind of facilities which made me realise that the situation of our older people needs to be improved.
There’s so many. Older people in remote areas have difficulty accessing their pensions. Very little has been done to address mental health issues. There is no national platform that supports people to be active in old age. And of course, there’s the issue of older people’s rights. Many older people are unaware of their rights and entitlements. Many older people are illiterate, which also puts them at greater risk of being exploited. Many suffer from elder abuse and ageism.
I did many campaigns in my life but my proudest moment was when we set up an eye care camp. After the camp, many older people got their eyesight back. That event was so memorable. It motivated me to organize many more campaigns for older people.
I have participated in many marches and demonstrations over the past 10 years. Now, the Government is coming up with so many policies and programs for older people. They have a more positive view towards older people. The government has increased the pension allowance from Nrs. 1,000 to 2,000 per month (equivalent to about $9 USD to $17 USD); There are more health facilities for older people, and two seats are now reserved for older people in public vehicles. All these good initiatives happened through the collective effort of all campaigners, working for older people.
I want older people to know that age is just a number. Don’t feel weak or less important in old age. Stay healthy, happy, active and productive. If you feel lonely and helpless, seek support from others around your age and share your feelings.
Learn more about the HelpAge Global Network's programs to advance the rights of older people.