In this period of high cost of living where the average citizen pulls the devil by the tail and relies on God, the living conditions of the elders of society command attention and deserve our attention respect. If the seniors did not do it themselves, it is to bet that no one else, including the public authorities, will do it for them if the latter base their management on that of the entire population without particular discernment and that when one is in the prime of life one thinks blissfully that old age affects only others. But we forget that youth is not a spontaneous generation and that the old age that generates it continues to contribute to the construction of society. Moreover, the Administration has difficulty in situating the elderly in society. It is only necessary to consider the alternative treatments that it has reserved for it until now at the rate of the regimes in place.
The political treatment of the elderly
It is worth remembering that it was only in 2012 that, for the first time, the Government politically recognized the elderly as constituting a distinct social entity. He then integrated them into a governmental structure: that of the Ministry of the Family, while the youth had always and regularly been part of all the governmental frameworks as far as I can remember. The Ministry in question had then judiciously created a directorate for senior citizens.
The regime of the Rupture probably chose a more globalist policy for the harmonious realization of its action plan. The directorate for senior citizens then disappeared from the Ministry of the Family and was apparently integrated into a “support service for people with special needs” of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Microfinance. The policy of globalization of government management seems to me all the more effective as the youth entity also disappeared from the government structure. But never mind ! It nevertheless remains that the people of the third age, who are usually situated between 75 and 90 years old, and those of the fourth age, after the age of 90, have specific problems which cannot be eluded, and which from our point of view, the people of advanced age cannot be considered only as people with special needs insofar as they continue, as much as possible, to play their part in the economic development of the country.
The negative social image of the retiree in our society
In our country, the fate of the elderly is called indifference but also the thing that disturbs, from which nothing can be learned and which should be put away. And that is only a big blunder, especially since this sidelining clashes with the precepts of our civilization and those of our fundamental values which grant the greatest deference to the elderly. It is indeed symptomatic that our traditions accord such great respect to old people when this is not the case in modern society. It is to believe that in the case in point, the two components of our cultural heritage, namely the fundamental culture that is tradition and the contributing culture that is the West are, in this case hardly in symbiosis when they should be to guarantee societal harmony.
The lack of recognition of the Administration towards Seniors
Occupational retirement is a time of rest after having served the State, and the State must be grateful to those who are admitted to it. This recognition is not seen anywhere in the management of public affairs. The pension is not recognition; it is quite simply the restitution of what the worker has contributed to the National Pension Fund or the National Social Security Fund during his period of activity at the rate of 6% of his gross salary.
Recognition would be to grant citizens of the third and fourth ages certain privileges in society as much as possible. In our country, and this has always been the case, the State has never wanted to be indebted in any way to pensioners; no ease in everyday life; no material benefit; no special considerations. The conclusion is bitter.
Recognition would also be to put at the service of the ministries dealing with retirees, agents who are fundamentally courteous, patient and empathetic, well aware of the material, social and even emotional problems of their clients. To this end, we suggest that from time to time, workshops be organized for them to enable them to familiarize themselves with the difficulties encountered by the elderly in order to understand the best ways of behaving with them.
The pensioner and his sociological role
Each stage of life corresponds to a specific function. The child has a vocation: to grow and learn. The adult that of maturing, ensuring its function of procreation, if necessary, and educating. The mature man, at the stage of retirement, that of passing on his knowledge, his know-how and his experiences, the cornerstone of development in all its aspects. He thus has the noble task of passing the baton; but the State would still have to conduct a policy in this direction and install it in this role of knowledge transfer.
An erroneous perception of the notion of knowledge transfer
The notion of knowledge transfer has unfortunately imprinted on people’s minds the idea of transmitting knowledge and know-how from a more advanced country to a less advanced one. This reasoning is obviously not correct. To meet its objectives, knowledge transfer should be internal and endogenous; and for good reason. The nationals who transfer their knowledge to other nationals have the advantage, not only of mastery of the field, but also that of a good knowledge of the psychology of the learners. This is how societies move forward smoothly and efficiently.
President Kennedy created the Peace Corps, which dispatches American volunteers throughout the world and especially to us; it is true that its members are young and without real experience. But why couldn’t we build on this initiative and do better by creating a body ourselves, not of young volunteers, but of experienced people to help young people; wouldn’t that be rational? This is our motivation to advocate the creation of a Corps of Solidarity Volunteers for Development in order to help young people in areas determined by the town halls. It is not the desire to pass on that retirees lack; it is the formal framework that is lacking. Doesn’t the adage say: help yourself and heaven will help you? We could say in turn: if others help you in their own way, show them that you can help yourself in a better way and they will help you in a better way, while respecting you.
The underestimation of the contributions of seniors to economic development
Contrary to an idea widely conveyed and that we no longer even seek to amend, the economic development of a country is not only the work of citizens still in the prime of life; retirees also participate. Policies willingly emphasize the need for young people to access the job market by appealing to the private sector, but they forget that people who are eligible for retirement undertake activities that provide employment. Moreover, it happens that these retirees force themselves to support their children who are still looking for work. They also assist them in terms of accommodation, subsidies or even investment, if necessary, by cutting back on their meager pension. Indeed, responsible parents never let their children loose in the wild when they do not yet have a job or are unemployed. A child out of work and left to fend for himself is a potential delinquent and therefore a virtual problem and burden for the State that his parents spare him. It is therefore appropriate to recognize that retirees play an important role in both crime prevention and the country’s economic development. They play their part in the concert of development discreetly, of course, but they certainly play it, and we should be grateful to them, especially since their purchasing power is dwindling with the expenses linked to old age. And it is not right to see in them only “people with special needs” thereby obscuring their active contribution to development.
The permanent erosion of the purchasing power of retirees and suggestions for granting a development support bonus
How does the state take special care of the elderly as prescribed by article 26 of our Constitution? I don’t know and don’t know who can give me a satisfactory answer. The retirement pension is only a fixed pittance, while the cost of living increases exponentially. I will be told that this increase affects all social strata equally. The problem is that, paradoxically as it may seem, the expenses of retirees are, in many respects and all things considered, higher than those of people in professional activity. To this, the political power does not pay enough attention.
Notwithstanding the fact that they are compelled to pay the same current expenses, it is on their meager pension that the elderly buy many more medicines to preserve their health, which has become fragile, while suffering from the high cost of living in the same way as those who are in good health. In addition, consideration should be given to the assistance they may be required to provide to unemployed or young children still under their guardianship. Their recurrent costs increase accordingly. And retired civil servants touch the bottom of the frustration when on top of all this comes the non-payment by the employer, the state, of salary arrears. This is the situation currently experienced by many retired Ambassadors and Ministers Plenipotentiary. They continue to seek fairness from the Head of State.
We believe that a special provision should make it possible to assign people on professional retirement aged under 75, regularly registered with the National Social Security Fund and able to prove that they support the efforts of their children in search of employment in particular in the financing of their projects, an annual bonus, we say annual only, for the services that they render to the State as well as for their specific survival needs as explained above. This bonus could more or less be equivalent to one month of their retirement pension. The proposal seems reasonable enough to allow consideration and study.
It is very difficult to admit that politicians do not think enough of the elderly, and yet they are the ones who make up the most reliable and credible electorate; they are the ones who generate the youth that they entice so much. In any event, we have just suggested to them the creation of a body of Solidarity Volunteers for Development and the granting of an annual bonus to senior citizens for their support for development notwithstanding their retired status.
Ambassador Candide Ahouansou