Sometime this year I visited Singapore. I took taxi twice and both times, the drivers were men of advanced aged- already retired from their usual jobs. Let me add that they were driving some really nice cars. In Malaysia as a younger cab driver would tell me, he had his friend’s dad who had also retired and was also doing the taxi business with his luxury car. These are senior citizens who have found an opportunity to continue having an income, while enjoying their independence. But these are among the lucky ones who have had pensionable jobs or businesses that they can continue to be part of.
The status in countries like ours however is such that in most cases the older population is the poorest. As local reports show, only a small number of Kenyans have paid into a pension scheme of formal employment. As a result, people are unprepared for the later days due to lack of reliable and adequate income. This vulnerability is increased by the fact that many children have left their rural homes for the urban areas in pursuit of jobs. This leaves their parents to fend for themselves and sometimes their grandchildren, often depending on subsistence farming for food, and selling of some farm produce like milk and eggs for a little money. But the life expectancy is increasing.
A lot more people are going to live decades after their retirement. It is for this reason that we need think about ways that the elderly can be supported to protect them from poverty and promote their wellbeing. Attaining the retirement age doesn’t not mean that they are no longer capable, and this is a stereotype we need to drop.
Let us support their independence and include them in the society. They have a lot to offer, and we have a lot to learn.
Article by Christine Nderitu