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Published On: Sun, May 11th, 2014

Caring for the elderly in Nigeria

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Elderly in NigeriaBy Femi Ogunshola

Sociologists always underscore the need for all members of the society to make pragmatic efforts to cater to the needs of elderly or aged persons.

Gerontologists, experts in the field of medical science that deals with diseases and problems of old people, particularly emphasise that this category of people needs special care.

They insist that the government and other stakeholders ought to initiate concrete plans on how to care for the elderly and make them useful in the society.

The Nigeria Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics (NSGG), therefore, underscores the need to have a national ageing policy to address the perceptible challenges facing old citizens of the country.

Prof. Adesola Ogunniyi, the Chairman of the NSGG, said that the policy was somewhat imperative in view of the claim of the United Nations (UN) that Nigeria had about 8.1 million old people, with a growing ageing population.

He noted that if the UN figure was anything to go by, concrete efforts should be made to initiate a credible national policy for the elderly to look after the interests of old persons.

Ogunniyi said that the NSGG was established to complement government’s efforts to protect the interests of the elderly and facilitate their access to good health care services.

Reinforcing the professor’s views, Mr Adeola Adeniji, an 82-year-old resident of Abuja, argued that Nigeria did not have adequate plans for the elderly.

He said that he had never received any form of assistance from the government, adding that old age had somewhat become a source of worry for most Nigerians because of the plight of old people in the society.

Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Elisabeth Moro, 75, said that life after her retirement from public service had been somewhat harrowing and difficult.

She said that due to the fact that she was unable to build a house while in service, she had since been facing untold embarrassment by her landlord whenever it was time to pay rent.

Supporting such claims, Mr Yinka Ajomole, the Executive Director of NSGG, observed that there was no concrete policy formulation and implementation process for the aged in Nigeria.

He said that the dearth of research data on ageing in the country also constituted a major setback to efforts to ascertain the current status of elderly Nigerians.

He, nonetheless, assured the public that the NSGG was committed to enhancing the capacity of the elderly to remain productive members of the society.

Ajomole said that the society was complementing the efforts of non-governmental organisations, community based organisations and the government at all levels to increase public awareness on the challenges facing the elderly.

He, however, recommended the development of a shared vision and common standpoint with passionate people on ageing in efforts to foster the evolution of strategic relationships within the society.

He said that the society would also encourage the conduct of enlightenment campaigns to change the negative attitude of most people toward the elderly.

He, however, argued that the adoption of an evidence-based approach to policy programmes and strategies would also improve the quality of life of the aged.

Nevertheless, Ajomole advised the government to incorporate ageing education into the curriculum of educational institutions at all levels and the programmes of the sectors so as to ensure better living standards for old persons.

He also suggested that the rights of the elderly to better living conditions ought to be discussed at the ongoing national conference.

All the same, Hajiya Zainab Maina, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, said that efforts were underway to domesticate regional and international instruments to address issues relating to ageing.

The minister, who gave the assurance at a recent stakeholders’ consultative and policy summit organised by NSGG in Abuja, conveyed the government’s concern about the increasing apathy of citizens toward caring for the elderly.

She, however, conceded that care for the elderly had declined considerably because of prevailing economic challenges.

Maina noted that the breakdown of extended family support system for older persons and rural-urban migration of younger persons in search of more favourable living conditions had also affected care for the elderly.

However, Dr Isabella Aboderin, a member of NSSG’s Board of Trustees, said that it was important for all stakeholders to brainstorm on ways of improving the wellbeing of the elderly.

She underscored the need for Nigeria to formulate a national policy for the aged, adding, however, that the input of all the stakeholders in the proposed policy was essential.

Aboderin said that the policy should also look into how to cope with the growing number of older people in the country and the implications.

Ms Roseline Kihumba, Partner Relations Adviser, HelpAge International, a rights-based international non-governmental organisation, said that old persons should have access to age-friendly and affordable health care services.

“An age-friendly physical environment that promotes the development and use of innovative technologies that encourage active ageing is very important. More should be done to expose, investigate and prevent discrimination, abuse and violence against older persons,’’ she said.

All in all, analysts stress the need to make pragmatic efforts to promote the wellbeing of old persons because the youth of today will definitely become the elderly of tomorrow. (NAN)

 

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