In the Holy books, a long life on earth was a promise from God. And in all cultures and climes of our society, though achievement is respected, age is revered. Ageing is a natural phenomenon and it is an inevitable process which everyone may be privileged to experience.
However, because they constitute a relatively small proportion of the population, there is a low level of awareness of their problems and needs in Nigeria.
The Minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, corroborated this in his speech to mark the World Health Day last Thursday, when he noted that in the presence of competing health needs, the aged are relegated to the background and are seriously threatened by poverty, want, deprivation, abuse, ill health, social exclusion, loneliness and suffering amongst others.
According to the International Federation on Ageing Nigeria (IFAN), ageing is not a disease but the final stage of a normal life cycle.
The organisation says it’s poised to help the aged spend their time more on meaningful and useful ventures- social, emotional, economic and spiritual.
“How many men ask or know what happened to their parents,” queried the managing director, Plus Factor, Mr Willie Nwobu.
Commending the place of women in the ageing world as enormous and important, he said that the impact of telecommunications in old age management has become unique and huge in the sense that these women use telephone to give instructions and to find out how their family is being managed.
He, however, noted, “Now when we begin to define destitute and refugees, a lot of people don’t find out whether they are internal refugees or internal destitute that have emerged in the country; the pensioners and the elderly. It is a major refugee that have emerged.
And the security challenge that if you don’t take care of the elderly is quite huge and enormous. First of all, men who have access to arms and who are trained on how to use weapon, when you unleash them to the society without taking care of them, it’s a natural process that they become a major security breach to society. Anywhere you don’t see elderly people, find out why. The health index in that area is poor and the moral value is a disaster and in this area of globalization, the mother tongue is going extinct and urbanization has caused more havoc in the management of the elderly”
We don’t have geriatrics clinic even though we have paediatric clinic. So when women emerge and their hormone system suddenly changes, which we call menopause, these women don’t have enough information.
A recent report has it that the ageing population in Nigeria is increasing rapidly.
According to the Draft National Policy on Ageing: Sept. 2008, the number of elderly persons in Nigeria who are 60 years and above was estimated to be 5.8 million in 2005 and it is expected to triple to 16 million by 2030, and increased to 47 million by the year 2060.
Chukwu who made these remarks to mark the World Health Day, which had as it’s theme, “Ageing and Health” with the slogan: ‘Good Health Adds Life to Years’, said the focus was on how good health throughout life can help older people lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities.
In 1948, the UN General Assembly set aside 7th April, to celebrate this day with events that would impact positively on the health of the populace.
The minister said there was the need for concerted efforts to build high level collaboration between government and non-governmental organisations, communities and individual families to have joint responsibilities of sharing the neglected plight of the elderly citizens of this country.
“The National Council on Health (NCH) has recently resolved and approved that Geriatric Health Services units should be established in all public health facilities as an intervention measure on ageing and related diseases.”
The Draft National Policy on Ageing has embodied firm recommendations of various sectors towards ensuring and securing the maximum care and well-being of the elderly Nigerian citizens.
These include; protection of elderly’s human rights, promote all relevant measures to safeguard and continuously advance the elderly needs especially in areas of essential services such as income, security, health care, nutrition, housing, recreation and social integration. But how much of these are being implemented, many people argue.
The minister said, “I am aware of the tremendous contributions made by our development partners, stakeholders and the NGOs in the provision of health care services, particularly in the rural areas by reaching the unreached and down trodden. I am indeed appreciative of your interest in the care for the elderly and wish to appeal for more support and assistance in the promotion of programmes that would expand information dissemination and education on elderly care.”