Elderly care is a shared duty

Caring for the elderly is a collective responsibility involving the government and every member of the community. WAM
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One of the many ways to contribute to the UAE Year of Giving is to offer assistance to those in need. There are centres around the country that open their doors for volunteers, including Sharjah Senior Citizens Home. As The National has reported, the centre's director Mariam Al Qatari has called on people of all ages to help their elderly residents to feel part of the community: "The elderly need direct contact with people from all age groups, to give them a sense of belonging. It helps them feel that they are still part of the community," she said.

While it’s estimated that about 5 per cent of Emiratis are aged 60 years or older, that number is expected to reach 11 per cent in 2032 and 19 per cent in 2050, according to United Nations data. This will put more pressure on the healthcare system and, inevitably, create a demand for more care centres. Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, the chairwoman of Dubai Health care City Authority, drew attention to this issue in 2015, saying that we need to work together to address the situation before it gets out of control.

It’s important that we think strategically and develop a healthcare system that is adaptable to changing demands and has more residential and daycare centres to accommodate those who may need them. But it’s also important that the community as a whole is engaged in these efforts.

There are many rewards to volunteering, both for the volunteers themselves and for the beneficiaries of that care.

For the person offering support, especially to senior citizens, volunteer work is likely to foster a greater sense of empathy, understanding and self-worth. For the individual who receives that care, and particularly those who are isolated, vulnerable or who may have no close family members to support them, a short and regular visit from a volunteer could help restore declining feelings of self-worth.

Too often our understanding of the notion of giving is rooted in purely fiscal and transactional terms. In this case, the greatest gift on offer is time.