As the pandemic resurges, it’s time to protect our elderly this Winter. As we mark the International Day of Older Persons, will we serve them as they once served us?

On International Day of Older Persons, we raise awareness for the elderly; those within our community, who have spent years contributing to our society.  We commemorate their hard work, and their drive to make the world a better place.  We often can forget how much they have done, to help shape the people we are today.

Start at Home

Look firstly to your own home, to your beloved parents. They have worked hard to protect and serve you. Many spent long days working hard, making sure they are doing their best to feed, love, shelter and care for you. We often overlook their sacrifice, and do not pay them the respect they truly deserve.

In Islam, we are taught to respect and honour our parents. We are reminded of their status constantly and encouraged to serve them, as they once served as children.

“Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If one or both reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them. And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small” (17: 23-24).

Beside our parents, Islam ingrains upon us respect for the elderly in general; be it people we know, through friends or family, or strangers alike. We are reminded of the severity of not showing mercy to them. The Prophet (SAW) said:

 “He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honour the elderly.” (at-Tirmidhi).

Winter hits the most vulnerable hardest

The elderly within our community are often the most vulnerable. We protect them and try to keep them out of harms’ way. As their bodies age, they are more susceptible to illness and frailty.

As the temperature drops, and the days shorten, the risk of them falling ill in Winter rises.

“In 2017, there were nearly 46,000 excess winter deaths amongst people aged 65 and over – a shocking 92 per cent of all excess deaths – equating to 379 older people a day. These distressing figures are now the highest we’ve seen in over 40 years.”  – ONS

This shocking statistic shows the true extent of how lives are lost of those 65+ during Winter. The cause of this is usually down to a mixture of a few factors such as poor housing, rising energy bills and poor health.

A second wave on the horizon

However, unfortunately this year, things are even worse. Our greatest fear for winter is no longer a recurring sniffle. Winter now brings the dread of another lockdown as we face the resurging of the virus, and all that it brings of the looming anxiety hanging over us of death, separation and isolation.

This further makes the situation for the vulnerable among us more unbearable. We fear for our loved ones, desperately praying that this not be this Winter in which they pass. For many of us, the thought of losing our parents is a thought too heartbreaking to ponder. We will try out utmost hardest to make sure our parents are comfortable, protected and safe. We may pay their heating bills, buy them warmer clothing and check in on their health more often. We are there to serve them, as they once did to us. After all, we love them dearly.

For those of the elderly, who have children, neighbours and family to check in on them, then truly they are blessed.  They will not face a winter alone, isolated, scared and uncertain about your future. When they are feeling cold, they have the means to turn up their thermostats, tuck into a warm meal and await visits and phone calls with their grandchildren.

Shivering in silence

However, this is not a reality for many. Within HHUGS households, there are elderly men and women are completely alone. They struggle to pay their bills, keep their homes warm on and shiver silently praying for someone to help them.

Aunty Sadia and her husband, faced these desperate times when her youngest son did not return home one night; to later learn he was arrested.

“We were very shocked. We didn’t know what to do. We heard this and fell immediately into depression about what has happened to us.”

She struggled to pay the bills and keep up with payments. When people visited their home, they described it being ‘stone cold’ because Aunty could no longer afford the gas bill.

Due to their situation, after a few years, Aunty and Uncle became increasingly unwell.  With problems with his eye sight, Uncle Akhtar struggled to see, and after injuring herself while attempting household chores or cooking, Aunty struggles to manage basic household tasks.

“We can’t afford so much…There is a lot of pressure on both of us. We always remember him. He used to always care for us and be with us. Even from inside (prison), he always worries about us.”

Families like Aunty Sadia’s are further struggling due to the pandemic. With their sons in prison, they have no check in on them. Their health deteriorates as they struggle to keep their house heated and when even preparing regular hot becomes a safety hazard.  They dread Winter, fearing it may be the one which they do not survive.

Other elderly mothers, like 80-year-old Hajar were forced to sell her possessions to survive after her son’s arrest and after she shockingly faced charges herself.

“I was forced to sell some personal things I had. Whatever I could sell, I sold to be able to eat, to be able to live my life.”

Her landlord was trying to evict Hajar and her mother, over a hundred years old herself, from their property which took a physical and emotional toll on her, losing significant amounts of weight, eventually being referred to a psychiatrist.

I was very depressed, I couldn’t control my emotions and would burst out crying all of the time. I feel my mind has gone. I don’t even have the means to laugh anymore or speak normally, like I used to.”

This is the heartbreaking reality for some.  Even within their old age, they are left isolated and alone. Their lives are turned upside down, leaving them helpless, desperately searching for help.

Honour our elderly

This Winter, will you be the one to help our mothers like Hajar and Aunty Sadia?

Think of them, as you tend to your own parents. 

With your support, you can help change the dynamic of their household. For many HHUGS is the lifeline they cling onto.

HHUGS helped Hajar when she at her lowest. They intervened to cover the cost of her rent and prevent her eviction, up until her trial and the resolution of her case.  As her son recalled,

“Even after my mother’s case was concluded they still offered support. If I could say anything about this charity, I would say that this charity reminds me of the kinds of sacrifice made by the Sahaba for each other. Maybe not today but in a few years, people will hear about these incidents and they will hear that Muslims came together to help people around them. I encourage people to support this organisation, not because they helped me, but because they help people in worse situations than me and my mother. So Alhamdulillah, please do continue to support this cause and be a part of this reward.”

On the day that we commemorate their efforts, let us take it one step further to show your appreciation, to truly have an impact on their lives.

The Prophet (saw) said: “Glorifying Allah involves showing honour to a grey-haired Muslim.” (Abu Dawud).

Glorify Allah by honouring the elderly within our community – those closest to home who are suffering silently within their own homes.

By supporting them this Winter, you will be helping them survive. You will provide them with a fighting chance to pull through, to fight through the uncertainty, with the hope and faith that there are individuals out there who care. 

People, who may be strangers, that are caring for them, for His sake.

Join us in making sure they are not overlooked and forgotten this Winter.