By Kung Chan
In 2014, after the death of the Japanese actor Ken Takakura, being childless he left all his 4-billion-yen inheritance to his adopted daughter Taka Oda, while his own sister and nephew failed to get a single cent. When his sister met Taka Oda and asked about the inheritance, the latter replied that she obtained the inheritance legally and reasonably. In the end, both parties went to court over the inheritance.
Takakura Ken is fairly renowned in the Japanese film industry. During his lifetime he left several memorable silver screen images, and is considered by his fans to be a well-deserved representative of “tough guy”. In 1996, the 65-year-old Takakura met a Japanese actress by the name of Taka Oda in Hong Kong. She was then only 32 years old, but was already married twice. Takakura and Oda hit it off as soon as they knew each other. Soon after, the two lived together.
In today’s world, regardless of the country, the elderly population are often living in a relatively miserable situation. Take Takakura as an example, although his relatives were alive before his death, they often did not interact with each other and were more like strangers. It was only after his death that they showed up and fought for the inheritance. The same incident happens everywhere in the world. In China, for instance, children’s attitudes towards the elderly are changing as well, and in some places, there is widespread unwillingness to support the aging folks and it is not unheard of where elderly parents were abandoned by their children. It appears that the right of the elderly is an awkward concept. For the elderly, the rights to live with dignity and enjoy equal work and life opportunities, care and protection provided by society, are mostly just an unattainable ideal.
While science and technology are advancing at a rapid pace, the world’s major tech giants rarely, if ever, pay attention to the rights of the elderly. The font size displayed in the screen of most devices is not exactly suitable for elderly people. There are also a large number of high-tech services that set their target audience to be the younger population who are familiar with computer systems. For the elderly, such interfaces can be quite complicated, and it is highly inconvenient for these senior citizens to register, log in, and use them. There are also many government and public services, including the health management system of the COVID-19 situation, which require the use of computers, mobile phones and other tech devices. More often than not, such services have completely ignored the reasons why a considerable number of elderly people are unwilling to use them.
The elderly people do in fact, have the right not to use the increasingly complex computers and mobile phones, but this kind of right has been ignored, even by those with good intentions.
In the real-world situation, human rights are hierarchical, even with age discrimination. Human rights, especially the one we frequently talk about, appear to be tailored for younger people. The rights of the elderly should be based on the special requirements of the elderly. Aging is inevitable, and in today’s world, the elderly population is growing at an unprecedented rate. Yet, the rights of the elderly have not been fully appreciated by the society. It would leave us with the impression that the younger generation of politicians seems to think that there is not something worth considering.
In many countries in our world, people can enjoy parental leaves, yet it is much more difficult to apply for leaves to take care of the elderly. The United Nations Principles for Older Persons, adopted by General Assembly resolution 46/91, contains such clause, “Older persons should be able to reside at home for as long as possible”. This is certainly a wise and correct suggestion, but the question is, who should take care of them?
In China, more and more well-to-do elderly people are being sent to nursing homes, and often no one cares about what they really wanted. What is then, their actual situation in these nursing homes? One such elderly person revealed that “this no different to spending money to go to prison”. A director of a nursing home there frankly admitted that “it’s best for old people to stay still. If they move too much, there will be higher chances for them to get hurt. Their family members will hold us accountable because, in the end, it is the responsibility of the nursing home”. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States too, sees an alarming death rate in nursing homes.
The rights of the elderly are a disaster that has been ignored. They are still being forced to catch up with younger people, and on the day when they can no longer tolerate it, they will make their voice heard. The rights of the elderly are also human rights and important ones at that. When that day comes, maybe it will be the day where the world awakes to this fact.