Community assistance sought to uplift Brunei’s elderly, knowledge

February 13, 2018 Siti Hajar Mahathir

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan (2nd R) officially launching the Bestari Community Center in Kampong Pandan Kuala Belait. Photo by Yusri Adanan

The price of modernity and development for a small nation such as Brunei is taking its toll on the country’s identity as more among the younger population are willingly trading in the older generation’s hard-earned heritage for superficial practices that are in defiance of history and traditions.

Not wanting to lose the Bruneian way of life developed over centuries through diverse customs across tribes, practices and beliefs, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (KKBS) is investing means and modes to better engage the attention of youth by bringing together experience and wisdom with the malleability of today’s generation in hopes to better the chances of survivability of Brunei’s uniqueness.

As part of the ministry’s efforts, stakeholders have come together to establish in the latest series of community-centric establishments that harnesses the power of the elderly, this time focussing on Kuala Belait where the Library of Language and Literature Bureau is now also home to the Bestari Community Centre (PMB) where activities to gather old and young are set to take place over the course of the centre’s existence.

In an interview with the New Brunei Daily following the official launch of PMB, KKBS Permanent Secretary, Datin Paduka Dr Hajah Norlila Dato Paduka Hj Abdul Jalil explained that though these facilities are made readily available by the government, the real drivers behind its success lies in the hands of the community surrounding this initiative.

With two other centres that preceded this one located in Kampong Pandan surrounded by homes under the National Housing Scheme, the PMB, said the permanent secretary, aims to further facilitate inclusiveness where all walks of life including those who are differently-abled are encouraged and welcomed to partake and learn from those who still have much to give.

“The elderly has quite a significant amount to contribute. With this centre, they are no longer waiting passively to impart their knowledge and we can learn from them especially through their own experiences particularly for our children,” she noted.

With lessons learnt throughout their own lives, Datin Dr Hjh Norlila shared that the elderly who participate in the centre’s activities are hopeful that their young would welcome this opportunity to learn the intricacies of what it truly means to be Bruneian, ranging from the simplest of making kuih’s to the dexterity required for basket weaving that has become part of Brunei’s pride and contribution to local art.

As Bruneians live longer lives thanks to advancements in healthcare, there is a need to ensure that the elderly is kept engaged, she added as she explained that the centre encourages those in their golden years to live active lifestyles whilst adding value to the communities they live in, further bolstered by the establishments of centres, such as PMB, that have ambitions to be centres of learning.

“We would like them to teach as we continue to encourage them and providing them with a platform for not just our ideas, but also their ideas because they want to ensure that the younger generation can learn over worries that we would lose the skills and expertise that the elderly now carry.”

Following the same concept but through a different model for elderly-community engagements compared to the one established in Kampong Lambak Kiri, and another in Tutong, the PMB provides the elderly with the facilities to interact and network amongst themselves, the youth and children to strengthen relationships that hope to provide a meaningful symbiosis. However, more still needs to be done and the onus falls onto Brunei’s next generation of leaders.

“It isn’t enough for the ministry to say we want the youth to come in and so we need the youth to tell us what more we can do to attract them here and be together with the elderly,” she noted.

The opening of the centre was officiated by the ministry’s newly appointed minister, Yang Berhormat Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin and was attended by several State Legislative Council members.

New Brunei Daily