Author: Namik Kirlic '05
Our first year, all students here at Middlebury College must take their first-year seminar class. My class is Human Rights in Post-Colonial Societies, where we read and learned a lot about human rights, always had very powerful discussions, and touched upon difficult topics, that often left us with much to think about later. The class required us to have a community service project, which somehow had to be related to the topic of human rights. Each project had to consist of volunteering, research and promotion of the project here at Middlebury College.
My project carries the name, "Improving The Life of the Elderly – Improving Our Own Future," and its main goal was to promote the issue of the human rights of the elderly. The elderly are equal members of society and thus should be treated with respect and dignity, especially since all of us will encounter their age at one point in our lives. Various studies show a trend in growth of the elderly population in the world and a high trend of increase in life expectancy as well. As this trend continues, many countries have made laws on the rights of elderly, as well as the United Nations with its Principles for Older Persons. Most of these laws are taking into consideration rights to food, water, shelter, opportunity to work, educational, cultural and recreational resources, health care and fair treatment regardless of background. Many of these rights are being respected and care of the elderly has improved; however, there is still much to be done.
The independence of the elderly is very important; however, it is often being taken away from them. Our infrastructure is built in a way that is, most of the time, inaccessible to the elderly. One of the basic rights is for the elderly to stay at their homes as long as possible, and often they are faced with going to nursing homes. Many times the families of elderly are struggling with massive difficulties, and they should be given proper support. Elderly are still often treated with a stereotype of holding no value to the society. I strongly disagree, knowing that all that we have now has been somehow been accomplished through the hands of these people.
When we talk about aging and the elderly, we take into consideration health, which was described by the World Health Organization as "a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not only the absence of disease or infirmity." So health is not only about adding years, it is about having a less painful, and more satisfying and active life. What has to be accomplished is not merely the idea of turning elderly into perfect healthy adults but creating a lifestyle for them that will most effectively reduce the pain and difficulty of the aging and vulnerability of their bodies and souls.
So I asked myself what was there that I could do? Well, the town of Middlebury offered the right place for everyone who feels like he/she should do something. I volunteered at the Elderly Services every Friday for an hour and a half in the evenings. Most of the time I helped with serving the dinner and helping elderly get ready to go home for the night. Elderly Services is an amazing place, and for me, it has been a great experience to volunteer there. The people who work or volunteer there are absolutely devoted to the elderly and their wishes with much patience, love and care. I was moved with the gratitude I received from the elderly every time I did something for them, and most of the times, it was a matter of holding their coat for them or serving them their food. I listened to some wonderful stories about their lives, each holding substantial value. I also shared many of mine, and they were always so intensely interested, asking questions and really showing that my story meant something to them.
I encourage everyone to really look at the elderly as equal members of our society and treat them with meaningful respect and dignity. Show them love and care and through that create a better future for yourself. If you have the time to give for these people, the Elderly Services in town is the perfect place for you to start.
Contact information on the Elderly Services: Elderly Services: 27 No. Pleasant Street, P.O. Box 581, Middlebury, VT 06753, (802) 388-3983, www.elderlyservices.org
Elderly Deserve Equal Human Rights Too
Author: Namik Kirlic '05