OPINION

Mitigating old age problems through Time Bank Investment

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By: Dr. Mohammad Farooq Baqual

Nowadays, there is a growing trend where majority of the our old age persons are left alone in the homes on the mercy of God when thechildren have no other option but to be in search of livelihood in other parts of country or look for opportunities away from their old parents, sometimes even sea’s apart!

The other day when one of my friend send me a message, I thought the message will be as normal as the ones being  received and dispatched very often and as such I did not react with any urgency. Butafter getting some leisure time I happened to open the message which proved to be the most informative and appealing message of the day.The content of the message is all about time bank in Switzerland where a pensioner is reported to be very rich and a retiree has no need to be worried about anything in his/ her later years. The only worry for such people is the situation where they might needa helping hand that would assist them to reach to the system and explore the abundant options kept for him/her.

In order to ensure that even this does not become a cause of worry, people here invest some time in  helping or taking care of individuals who are senior citizens or more aged thenthem and the same time can be encashed by the investor when he/she needs some ones help. This is called ‘Time Bank Investment’ which essentially means investing ones time during his or her prime and getting the invested time back at the time of need.  What a beautiful and appealing investment!

Elaborating on the contents of message, a student studying abroad in Switzerland had rented a house near his school. The landlord, Kristina, was a 67-year-old single lady who worked as a teacher in a secondary school before she retired.  However, it is surprising that the lady had actually found- work - to take care of an 87-year-old single old man. The lady was asked if she was working for money and the response was astonishing. “I did not work for money, but I put my time in the ‘time bank’, and when I need such help, I could withdraw it.” The first time I heard about the concept of "time bank", the original “Time Bank” was an old-age pension program developed by the Swiss Federal Ministry of Social Security. People saved the time of taking care of the elderly when they were young, and waited until they were old, ill or needed care. Applicants must be healthy, good at communicating and full of love. Every day they have plenty of time to look after the elderly who need help. Their service hours are deposited into the personal accounts of the social security system. The lady went to work twice a week, spending two hours each time, to help the elderly shopping, finishing the room, taking the elderly out to sunbathe, and chatting with the elderly.

According to the agreement, after one year of her service expiry, “Time Bank” would count out her working hours and issue her a “time bank card”. When she needs someone to take care of her, she can use her “time bank card” to “time bank” to withdraw “time and time interest”. After the information verification is passed, “Time Bank” will assign volunteers to take care of her to the hospital or her home.

The student further adds that one day he was in school and the landlady called and said she fell off the stool when she wiped the window.  He quickly took leave and sent her to the hospital for treatment. The landlady broke her ankle and needed to stay in bed for a while. While he was preparing to apply for a holiday home to take care of her, the landlady had told him that she didn’t need his help and he didn’t need to worry as she had already submitted a withdrawal request to the “Time Bank”. Sure enough, less than two hours, "Time Bank" had sent a nursing worker for the landlord.

In the following month, the care worker took care of the landlord every day, chatted with her and made delicious meals for her. Under the meticulous care, the landlady soon recovered to health. After recovering, the landlady went back to "work".  She said that she intends to save time in the "time bank" when she is still healthy, and wait until she really needed it.

Today, in Switzerland, the use of "time banks" to support old age has become a common practice. Many Swiss citizens are very supportive of this kind of old-age pensions. The survey conducted by the Swiss pension organization shows that more than half of Swiss young people also want to participate in this type of old-age care service.

Nowadays there is a growing trend where majority of our old age parents are left alone in the homes on the mercy of God as their siblings have no other option but to be in search of livelihood in other parts of country or even in foreign countries. On one hand our parents find it extremely difficult to cope up with the celibacy and age related problems and on the other hand they are not willing to stop their children as it is matter of their carrier and livelihood as well. This creates a situation where in parents are left to themselves resulting in lot of distress and uneasiness for them.

Can we, along with our youth, think of it and in our absence make our parents feel less distressed and less helpless by promoting the concept of time bank investment?

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