Dear Sina. She is 43 years old, lost her husband 15 years ago and looks, as many Cambodian people, much younger, girlish even. In our talks she mentiones her own fear of getting old, and her worries what to do then.
Care from her son? She prefers not. Remarry? She is too old for that. Spend her time learning Buddhist teachings and at the pagoda? That is what she started doing recently, spending her saturdays in Buddhist school to become a ‘Obesekaa’ or laywoman. And what about an income? She is wondering if she can buy an apartment to rent, and generate income that way. Her state pension as a retired University professor will be around 100 dollar per month.
Sitting in a coffeeshop just before we interview her she tells me how nervous she is to talk about elderly in Cambodia and getting old. She is not used to being in the spotlight, and although she wants to do her Phd in sociology on elderly, she thinks she should wait untill her son of 15 is older.
She is one of the few people we have met in Cambodia truly interested in the fate of elderly in the country. During her 2012 research for a demography on elderly,initiated by the University of Michigan (USA), she went to the vast rural areas of Cambodia and saw the miserable life of many elderly there. She simply says: “They are too poor, they cannot and should not live like that.” And that is why she integrates elderly, demography and policy in her teachings.