A Refuge for Burma’s Elderly Poor

By Sai Zaw 23 May 2014

THANLYIN, Rangoon — At this privately run Buddhist home for the poor and aged in south Rangoon all are welcome. Contrary to most of the senior citizen centers in Burma, the Thabarwa Center in Thanlyin Township opens its door to homeless, sick, physically and mentally disabled old people.

The center provides shelter to more than 600 people and is a rare sanctuary for sick senior citizen with no families to take care of them. Thabarwa provides them with food, clothing and medical care free of charge. In the event of death, the center also performs the last funeral rites for residents and a decent burial.

With no proper social welfare service from the government it is becoming common in cities across Burma to see old people without family support struggling to survive, begging for money at busy public places.

According to the government figures from last year, more than 70 privately run homes for poor and aged people across nationwide have taken care of about 3,000 old people. Last year, Burma’s first Day Care Center for old people opened in Rangoon and welcomed 30 people.

It’s difficult to know the exact size of Burma’s elderly population. With a nationwide census recently completed, more data on the country’s senior citizens is expected to be publicized next year.