A report by Which? last month labelled home care for elderly people as “shocking and disgraceful”. This followed two earlier reports published last year by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Care Quality Commission, which found “systematic failures” and that over half of English hospitals were failing to meet key standards of dignity and nutrition within elderly care.
These findings are deeply troubling, especially when one considers that according to recent government statistics, there are now, for the first time ever, more people of pensionable age than there are children under the age of 16. Against this backdrop of increased longevity and falling birth rates, Muslim statistics stand out, as only 3.63% of Muslims are over the age of 65 compared to a national average of 16%, as per the 2001 census. Given our relative youth, Muslims perhaps are ideally placed to tackle age inequalities in contemporary society.
After all, Islam encourages respect for our elders and mercy towards our youngsters and the Qur’ān commands us to lower a ‘wing of humility’ to our parents in their old age.
Age UK have recently launched a campaign called “Care in Crisis” to draw attention to what truly is a crisis in care, and as Muslims, we should be at the forefront of championing the rights of those who are downtrodden. Age UK are calling on the government to urgently reform the care system since too many people in later life are being badly let down by poor quality care and support.
There are several practical measures listed below which we can all implement to help alleviate this crisis and at the same time, allow us to gain the pleasure of our Creator, something that should be the life goal of every Muslim.
1. Charity starts at home. If you are fortunate enough to have your parents in your life and they reach their mature years and need your support, then you should reach your hand out to them willingly, remembering the sacrifices they made for you when you were young. Indeed, the Qur’an commands: “Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents.” (Qur’an)
2. It is a fact that many elderly people have health issues; therefore, it is also worthwhile remembering that visiting the sick is also greatly encouraged in Islam. Perhaps you could set up a weekly rota between you and friends to visit or cook for elderly people that live locally to you. This would also mean that you are preserving the rights of your neighbours, which is something Islam and all the Abrahamic faiths call to.
3. Educate yourself on the current crisis by visiting www.ageuk.org.uk and sign the petition calling for care reform before the deadline at the end of May 2012.
4. Volunteer with Age UK. Volunteer in one of their retail shops, or befriend a local person. There are countless opportunities to be found on the volunteer’s page on Age UK’s website.
We must remember that old age and the need for support is likely to affect us all in our mature ages. Advances in medicine and health should mean a better quality of life, and yet many people have only a life of loneliness and poverty to look forward to as they struggle to make ends meet with family living far, and the expensive costs of care. The government must do its duty towards earlier generations who served the country, contributed to the economy and made the UK the place it is today. Do your bit for them, and sign Age UK’s petition. Make some noise and stand up for something that matters.