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Elderly persons decry rampant discrimination

03 October 2016, 08:07

Nairobi - Eliud Karanja, an 87-year-old Kenyan, has nostalgic memories of a bygone era when old age was regarded as a treasure by the wider society.

The sharp witted elder is an encyclopedia having witnessed epoch moments in Kenya's journey from colonialism to a free and economically vibrant state.

Like thousands of men and women of his generation, Karanja at some point fought for Kenya's independence and his patriotism has never diminished in spite of frailties associated with old age.

As an octogenarian, Karanja has endured different forms of abuse and discrimination in the hands of his close relatives and the general public.

Speaking at a public forum held in Nairobi recently ahead of the UN Day of Older Persons on Saturday, Karanja decried emotional torture from a society whose indifference to its elders has reached crises proportion.

"Old age is no longer alluring like it used to be in our societies. We are being subjected to cruel treatment from our own children and large swathe of the modern society," Karanja lamented.

He singled out public service vehicles that discriminate elderly persons with careless abandon, yet their persistent pleas for fair treatment always fall on deaf years.

"Whenever I board a mini-van that ply from my home in the outskirts of Nairobi to the city center, the driver and conductor treat me like a beggar. It is a humiliating experience to ride in a public service vehicle where the crew treats old people with contempt," said Karanja.

Kenya's aging population that is estimated at 1.5 million is grappling with abject poverty, poor health and emotional abuse.

Thanks to intensive pressure from campaigners, the Kenyan government has rolled out a raft of programs to shield the elderly population from social exclusion and other injustices.

Karanja and his elderly peers who attended the forum said the battle to flee senior citizens from the bondage of deprivation, hunger and disease was far from over.

Zainab Osman Mohamed, a 76-year-old mother of four, decried systemic discrimination at the health center where she has always frequented to seek medical attention.

"I have dealt with rampant discrimination in the health facilities where medics give old people casual attention yet their ailments are often more severe compared to those of the youthful generation," she said.

She noted that health-care providers in Kenya continue to treat old people like a burden.

"It is unfortunate that even doctors are very slow in attending to elderly people who endures agony while queuing alongside their younger compatriots in health facilities," she added.

The Kenyan elderly persons have not only suffered in the hands of cruel relatives but also unscrupulous people hell bent to profit from their plight.

77-year-old Torito Kinyanjui lamented how an unscrupulous lawyer almost fleeced him after a court awarded him compensation linked to injuries he suffered after an accident.

"Legal services in this country are too exorbitant for older people who have suffered from injustices. The state should step in to protect us from unscrupulous profiteers," Kinyanjui said.

As Kenya joined the rest of the world to mark the UN Day for Old Persons, campaigners piled pressure on nation states to act on ageism that is to blame for violation of rights of the senior citizens.

"Ageism is a driving force behind denial of older people's rights. While other forms of discrimination are prohibited by law, age discrimination is often not, including under the international human rights law," said HelpAge International CEO Justin Derbyshire.

- Xinhua


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