In traditional Asian culture, when children are young, parents look after them, and when parents are old, their children look after them. Children are taught to respect the elders, stay with them and care for them as they get old.
I moved from the US to Cambodia to honour my father’s wish to return to his homeland and stay for the remainder of his life. As the oldest child, it is my duty to take care of him as he is now ill and needs care from his family.
But not everybody can do this. Many have to work and have families of their own. I always believed that if you really want something bad, you will find a way. Also, jobs may come and go, but you only have one parent.
In the US, as the parents get older, many are placed in a nursing home.
The staff in the nursing homes includes administration, nurses and support personnel who watch over the elderly, as their retirement pension or their children pay for them to be placed in the care of others.
But placing the elderly in a nursing home is not always the best choice, as stories and cases of physical abuse have been reported in some nursing homes.
Researchers have reported that adults 65 years and older can experience memory loss, have serious illnesses, are not sexually active and feel they aren’t needed or are a burden to others.
Overall, older people, regardless of their social, cultural or financial background, can become socially isolated in their later years and experience loneliness and social seclusion.
In today’s society, the young generation seems to be neglecting family values.
Parents are so busy working that they do not have the time to teach their children what their grandparents and parents have taught them.
The importance of family values affects our decisions, our security and the way we manage our family in this ever-changing world.
More than half of Cambodia’s population is under the age of 30.
The Cambodian elderly, who are survivors of the Pol Pot Regime, have suffered a lot. Our elderly need to be a part of the community, without feeling like they are a burden.
They still play an important role in our society, and their presence alone is an integral part of our history as they are the storytellers of Cambodia’s glorious and tumultuous past.
Focus Cambodia is a not-for-profit Incorporated Association, based in Perth, Western Australia, and run by volunteers. It has a program for the elderly called the Focus Cambodia Elderly Project.
Their research has shown that the elderly, mostly women, live in slum dwellings with no means of support.
They must rely on someone to find them food, or beg for food, as they are sick and are not able to provide for themselves. Sometime they only have one meal, every second day.
With generous donations from their sponsors, this program provides fresh food, clean water and medical care to the elderly for one year.
Cambodia needs to establish a program to help provide for the elderly, not only the essentials to live, but social and recreational activities for them.
Let’s help care for our Cambodian elderly and treat them with kindness and respect, and most importantly, preserve the traditional family values.
The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.