Monday, August 11, 2008

The Welfare of the Senior Citizens – A Concept for the Establishment of Garden Villas for the Elderly

Speech by Venerable Master Chin Kung
July 2007

I left Taiwan in the 1970s, and have been traveling to various countries and regions to teach Buddhist principles based on what is taught in the Sutras. In each place I visited, I was most concerned with two things: First, the welfare of the elderly; and secondly, the rate of juvenile delinquency.

Why am I so concerned about the welfare of the elderly? The average age of the population is increasing and it is a world problem. How to take care of the livelihood of the senior citizens in a country is a major concern of most governments. To rear our children in the hope that they will look after us is wishful thinking and is not practical. Most of the members of our younger generation either failed to extend filial piety to their own parents or they lack the ability to take care of them. The home for the elderly seems to be the only solution in this situation.

When we examine the social structure of society in different countries, facilities for the elderly are hard to find. It is true that such facilities are found in some countries like the USA and Australia, especially in Australia. The Government there does look after their senior citizens. Yet, whether it was facilities provided by the Government or by private entities, the focus is on materialistic support and not support for their spiritual aspirations. The personnel involved look after the inmates like what is expected from mechanical devices. True love and compassion are seldom shown. The elderly would soon feel depressed, and abandoned. They live in solitude and would simply wait for their demise.

In such circumstances, we recently learnt from the Flower Adornment Sutra (also known as Avatamsaka Sutra). “The Four Immeasurable Compassions” concept has given us the inspiration that we have a duty to look after the aged. It is hoped that we should pull our resources together to help our senior citizens. Our senior citizens have made tremendous contribution to the society during their live time. They should have the opportunity to enjoy life in their final years. This is a way to build a selfless cordial society.

A few points for consideration:

1. Facilities and services similar to what is found in 5-star hotels should be made available. The accommodation provided should be comfortable in scenic areas. Single rooms complete with maid service should be made available. We could consider a fund raising exercise for donation or investment on a per room basis. Rooms not in use could be leased out. These could be made available to the guests of the inmates, or students who may need to make use of such facilities for study during their vacation.

2. A number of restaurant facilities should be provided for. Buffet will be served throughout the day. The type of food available will meet their religious requirements as well as dining habits.

3. There is no need to use the terminology of “Home for the Elderly” as the use of such a name might cause inferiority complex to implicate the age of the inmates. Instead a name such as so-and-so Villa, or so-and-so complex, or any other grand name could be used. This complex will be a sort of university for the elderly, a multi-cultural center, an institution for teaching ethics. Within the complex there shall be available an exhibition hall for the display of arts, a music hall and a multi-usage center.

4. Hospitals will be established close by and there will also be primary schools in the neighborhood. Both the elderly and the children of tender age are served by the staff with love and compassion. The very fact that these two groups of inmates will live together in harmony will help to reinforce love, and the need to extend our love and affection to the aged.

5. Members of the staff who render service within the complex, whether they work at the clinic, or in the primary schools or nursery schools should be well acquainted with a few prescribed textbooks well referred to in Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, such as the Di-Zi-Gui (Standards for Being a Good Student), Accounts of Request and Response, Ten Good Deed Sutra. The importance of filial piety and respect for the elders must be upheld. They should show respect to the elders when they serve the elders with an attitude of truthfulness similar to what their offspring would have adopted. I would like to refer to the experiment of promoting the Di Zi Gui teaching at Lu Jiang Center for Cultural Education in Tang Chi County, An Hui Province in China. The success of the experiment has received high compliments at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in October 2006. It is possible to adopt the teaching model offered at Lu Jiang and to draw inspiration from such an experiment.

6. The senior citizens living within the complex may have a divergence of religious background. The complex will provide different facilities to cater for their needs. For example, there shall be chapels, mosques, as well as temples. Different types of gatherings will be organized. Multi-media facilities will be available to show different religious images at the screen to suit the occasion. Multi-cultural activities and programs will be made available at weekends and during the holiday seasons.

We must have the interests of the senior citizens in mind. We have the motive of enhancing the spiritual value of their life. The programs we would offer must include topics to reflect humanity, morality, philosophy, wisdom and scientific principles. These will enable the senior to appreciate the meaning and depth of life.

7. There may be some senior citizens who would want to impart their special skill to the younger generation. They will have the opportunity to offer free courses. Members of the younger generation would be invited and benefit from what the elders have to tell them. These teachings as well as the happy life of the senior citizens could be recorded and made available to the general public.

8. After the completion of this complex for the senior citizens, we should invite representatives from different countries and from the UNESCO/United Nations to share our experience. This should enable them to render a similar service in their own country. The multi-national corporations may consider using the same business model to set up franchised outlets in different parts of the world. It is very likely that they would receive support from all governments, because they should be in a position to solve a social problem, and help to reduce the burden in looking after the aged.

9. Many traditional heritage of culture of different societies are being marginalized. In many instances, it is the senior citizens who could lend a helping hand to preserve them. They are the ones who know how to appreciate these niceties of culture. If our complex could invite the senior citizens who possess this skill to come forward to demonstrate the almost distinct heritage, all will benefit from such a meaningful endeavor.

We all have our parents. We will all get to be aged. We remember what Mencius has said:

“From the respect you show to your own parents, you should extend
your respect to the parents of other people. From the love and care of
your own children, you should extend your love and care to the children
of other people, if you can handle this, the ability to handle any
administration is in the palm of your hand.”

The senior citizens have dedicated the whole of their life in the service of their country and their community. It is about time for them to enjoy the respect they deserve from the younger generation. If we could truly adopt an attitude of appreciation and extend our filial piety to all the elders; if we could create a paradise for them, truly provide them with first class accommodation, and fulfill our duty in looking after them; if we could unify different religious groupings and people from different ethnic origins; if we could magnify the significance of traditional culture and promote the sage education for filial piety and universal love, then everybody around the globe would appreciate and support our effort. The creation of a much-needed harmonious world is within sight.

The Welfare of the Senior Citizens – A Concept for the Establishment of Garden Villas for the Elderly - July 2007

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