After the death of his wife, Mujibul Haque thought it was an opportunity to escape from family responsibilities. He wanted to lead a carefree life in tranquillity, keeping himself aloof from all social obligations.
In the last inning of his life, what he preferred was pursuing his hobbies like painting, and writing columns in newspapers.
It was not that difficult for this octogenarian to find a place to live a life in his own way. It was "Prabin Nibash," an old-age home in the capital's Agargaon where he had found a destination to fulfil his wishes.
It has been 20 years since he started living at room 504 of this old-age home.
Like Mujibul, more and more old people today search for an old home as families are getting fragmented and people are getting lonely. The growing number of old people is also driving the demand up.
And it is natural as life expectancy has increased to 72 years. About 1.40 crore people of the total population in the country now belong to the elderly group. The number is expected to reach 4.5 crore in 2050. During that time, the number of elderly people will surpass that of the young.
And many of them will want to end up in hold homes for sure.
"I am having a good time here and I can do whatever I like to do. And I am enjoying my life to the fullest," Mujibul told the Business Standard.
"I have a son and a daughter; they are well-established. They stay at their own apartments. Sometimes they come to visit me," he added.
The paintings hung on the walls of his room are the first things to captivate a visitor's eyes. Those are done by Mujibul himself – the old man paints whenever his heart wishes so.
Unlike Mujibul Haque, 65-year-old Firoza Biswash had no option left other than choosing to live here.
All her five children live abroad. She did spend some days with her children in the United States. But she felt lonely there as all of her children were so busy that they did not have any time to spend with their mother.
She returned home in 2017 and made it to a room in the old-age home. At this old-age home, she has found some women of her age to gossip with.
"I love talking, and gossiping", Firoza smiled. "My sons and daughters are very busy. So, I used to spend time with my grandchildren. As they grew up, I became lonely again. But now, I am spending a good time with all here," she expressed contentment.
The old-age home is an ideal place for elder people like Mujibul Haque and Firoza Biswash who do not have financial constraints and want to lead a life of their own.
Many older people are passing time in loneliness as nuclear families are on the rise. Their children stay in towns and cities. Many other elderly residents have to spend days alone at concrete apartments as their children stay abroad.
Indeed, elderly people are now alone everywhere – be it at villages or in cities.
In some cases, some people, who believe in the freedom of life, stay alone as they do not get married or get separated from their better halves. For proper care of such elderly people, the old-age home is a demand of time.
"For the kind of culture we have in the country, most people want to stay with their children at older age. But now the reality is – children are going away from their parents for better careers," said Dr ASM Atikur Rahman, general secretary of Bangladesh Probin Hitoishi Sangha, to the Business Standard.
"It is not possible to provide facilities like nutritious food, proper healthcare, company, and freedom to older persons all the time at home in our country," he added.
For this, the old-age home is an ideal place where there are all the facilities available round the clock tending to the older ones' needs, said Dr Atikur.
Old-age homes not adequate
Under the social welfare ministry, there are six old-age homes in Dhaka, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Bagerhat, Chattogram, and Barishal. Each can house only 50 persons at a time.
Our correspondents from Sylhet and Rajshahi said there is no old-age home at the district level. Only ten seats are available for older persons in "Shishu Paribars."
Besides, Prabin Hitoishi Sangha has 80 branches across the country. There are some self-run old-age homes too.
Today is the International Day of Older Persons and the day will be observed across the country and elsewhere in the globe.
This year's slogan is– The Journey of Age Equality.
Mentioning old-age as a major challenge of human life, the United Nations is observing October 1 as the "International Day of Older Persons" every year since 1991.