As per Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, Jamati institutions have the responsibility to ensure that their initiatives meet the needs of senior citizens. These opportunities for elderly people contribute to their families and communities in several ways. However, one element influences the scope of these contributions: health. And it is our responsibility that our elders are not assumed to be dependent and a burden to society but live their lives gracefully.
In Pakistan, from time to time, engaging sessions, awareness seminars and excursions are scheduled under the umbrella of “Aging with Grace,” allowing elderly members of the Jamat to keep abreast of new developments and cultural shifts while staying actively involved and partaking in new experiences.
Building on this theme, in collaboration with the Ismaili Council for Lahore, the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board for Central Region organised a second residential camp titled "Golden Angels" for the seniors of the Jamat. This programme aimed to equip seniors with modern tools and techniques to live gracefully through productive engagement and adapting to contemporary challenges. It also provided a platform to transform participants' indigenous knowledge to the youth and leadership attending the event.
The journey of Golden Angels started during the COVID-19 pandemic, when daily online sessions for the senior members of the Jamat were held to address issues of social isolation and concerns about the physical health and emotional prosperity of the elders. These sessions rapidly expanded to include senior family members, volunteers and the greater community of elders in Pakistan and elsewhere (e.g., North America, the Middle East, Australia/New Zealand).
This camp adopted an interactive approach and promoted essential life skills such as economic wellbeing, a healthy nutrition-based lifestyle, the power of happiness on health and the importance of technology, English language skills and being active. Around 61 elders from different cities and local councils of the Central Region participated in this two-day residential camp. The institutional leadership, young artists and REC students warmly welcomed participants with their creative performances.
Starting the day with yoga and laughter therapy, the “Golden Angels” were engaged through different sessions and actively participated in the cultural night, expressing their happiness through music and cultural dance. The closing ceremony was attended by Jamati leadership of AKSWBP, Council for Central Region and Local Councils. The camp provided participants with a chance to come together, share their life experiences and reflect on the key messages of Mawlana Hazar Imam.
Sharing their experience, a participant mentioned, “It was a well-structured camp. This reflected through the time and effort put in by the volunteers. The camp allowed us to learn about social, physical, mental and economic wellbeing. The sessions coupled with the entertainment were fun and boosted our confidence.”
These interactions helped develop camaraderie amongst the seniors and were later extended to include family members of the seniors, volunteers and the wider community of seniors within and outside Pakistan. Sessions like these foster the social and health needs of the elders in the community and play an important role in their cognitive development.
The increasing trend of involving seniors in Jamati institutional programmes, such as the recreational centres set up by the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board, as well as educational programmes, sports activities and age-specific health courses by relevant entities ensures holistic and inclusive care for our elderly which enables them to live their lives gracefully.