Wed. Aug 17th, 2022

Active Ageing in Hunza: Challenges and Opportunities

Credit: Sam Dalrymple


Mehnaz Badar | KIU, Gilgit


Introduction

National Geographic published a thorough series of articles in the early 1970s investigating claims of long-lived people all over the world. One of these peoples was the Hunzai, who lived in Northern Pakistan’s Hunza Valley (Mark Stibich, February 08, 2022). The people of Hunza, who are said to live longer than anyone else on the planet, have also a life expectancy of 100 years, with some exceeding 120 years (TEAM, 12 June 2020).

With a high life expectancy and a healthy diet, the people of Hunza are living their lives to the fullest with their families, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. This isolated community has a blessed active ageing with the passage of time. With a good education background, the Hunza Valley has a very reliable and high living standard that they have created for themselves. Everyone in this valley is well-educated, whether they are young or old. The way the elders of Hunza live their lives with prosperity and activity will be difficult to see in other cities of Pakistan. Hunza’s well-educated elders have formed various organizations for their homeland. Because the number of tourists in Hunza is high, the elders have established specific non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work collaboratively and cooperatively. Mostly, elders can be seen sitting together under a shady tree discussing their candid conversations, holding grandchild’s hand towards school, doing field work with their sons and daughters, guiding tourists, sharing history of their past, volunteering in an NGO, providing services to the needy, favoring one another, and so on.

Sher Ahmad, a Hunza Valley resident, built a Community Hall for Hunza Valley elders in the style of an Old Age House. Sher Ahmad, who moved to Canada in the 1990s and then to America for work, was granted American citizenship. He has spent his entire life in America, but he will never forget his motherland, Hunza. He usually visits Hunza in the summer to spend quality time with his friends, family, and relatives. Sher Ahmad, who is also getting older, planned to build an Old Age home for his valley’s senior citizens in 2020. The money he earned throughout his life is now being used to construct that house. He made people aware of this initiative. He was joined by some other local elders. Sher Ahmad claims that if he did something, it was not because he was wealthy and had a lot of money. He is acting in this manner because it is his right to benefit his people. He goes on to say that his elders have done a lot for them in the past. They craved the mountains without the use of machines, but with their hands they built houses, palaces for kings, roads for tourists from abroad, worked like laborers, and sent their sons to cities to study and have a life they deserved.

Community Hall of Altit Hunza

The Old Age House, also known as the Community Hall, was formally opened in July 2021 with a ceremony. Elders from all over the valley go there to spend time with their peers their own age so that they do not feel lonely. Apart from that, after their retirement, the educated elders established another goal inside the community Hall: they will use it for meetings of NGOs formed for the betterment of the Hunza Valley.

Challenges on the way to Ageing

When it comes to challenges associated with aging in Hunza, there are few to be found. The majority of elders are experiencing active aging, with only a few experiencing passive aging. It means that they have no activity in their lives because they believe that they have become weak, unable to walk properly, are jobless, and have lost the respect in their family that they once had. The difficulties they are experiencing are the result of their own point of view; because the valley values its elders, it is unlikely that they will face difficulties from their families.

Opportunities on their way to Ageing

On the way to the Hunza Valley’s aging, there are numerous opportunities. The elders have created a new world for themselves. Those who are living in active ageing share their life experiences, making them feel more relaxed and secure in their ability to work actively after retirement. Muhammad Gul, retired CEO of Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) Afghanistan, says that he now serves the valley with his anonymous ideas for its betterment. He enjoys being of service to his motherland. Another honorable elder of the valley shared his ageing experience, having retired from teaching as a professor. He was also active in his aging and felt graceful because he was spending quality time with his family, friends, and relatives in his hometown. Similarly, an Ahmadabad chief stated that he is more energetic in his old age. As a result, the valley residents are taking advantage of every opportunity available to them. There are no special opportunities provided by the government, but the elders have created them on their own. They are also attempting to bring others into their service.

Conclusion

            At last, the valley has a large number of multi-talented people, including not only youth but also valley elders who are even more active than youth. The valley is remote from cities, but it has produced many facilities for its many generations. They have the ability to make the world a better place. As a result, they did not give up as they aged. They are doing everything they can to develop the same values in their children.

References

Mark Stibich, P. (February 08, 2022). The Hunza Valley as the Original Shangri La. verywell health.

TEAM, N. T. (12 June 2020). Health Secrets of the Hunza People. Nomadic Tribe.

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