The fact that old and aged people are a necessary fragment of a nation’s population, has not ensured they are protected against the many social vices which many find themselves in. RUTH TENE NATSA, writes on the need to further protect the old and aged…
Many a time, this strata of society are found to be denied of poor social amenities, inadequate economic infrastructures and the neccesary love and support they need, both from their families and government to further protect them from other forms of social injustice.
This used to be the story of many aged people as, stories abound of old people who have died as a result of seeking or running after their pensions, several years after retirement.
The need to address this anomaly, led to the present pension reforms, which is aimed at ensuring that old people who are most often civil service retirees, are protected from the injustice that send them to their early graves.
This need is further informed by the knowledge that every healthy individual prays to live to a ripe old age and thereby enjoy the social, economic and political benefits of it’s nation.
The need to protect this segment of society is to ensure that citizens within this age grade are protected and spared from various society ills that can be better tolerated by a younger generation.
In the words of Ebere, Chisom Sunday, “Retirement today only marks a change in lifestyle, not an end to a productive life as was too often the case in the past. Higher living standards and greatly improved healthcare have extended our life expectancy. At the same time, our expectations for our old age have increased.
In a seminar paper titled Pension Reforms in Nigeria, he said that, “We look forward to years of retirement which are active and rewarding. Retirement today, is no longer a gentle stroll into the sunset years, but an opportunity to be grasped and vigorously enjoyed.
As part of efforts to strengthen the advocacies and social development of the aged and less privileged in Nigeria, the Amazing Grace Old Peoples Home, Kado, was created by Chief Ifeyinwa Obegolu.
According to Chief Obegolu, “There was a time when many looked forward to ageing as a time to gracefully slide into that time of life when elders are accorded great wisdom, surrounded by the warmth of a loving family and pampered by society, but that was before the animalistic and selfish will to live the modern life took over.”
She said, “The African culture, of which Nigeria is the giant player, is such that the aged automatically become the responsibility of their families, irrespective of whether the family can afford to care for them or not. This, unfortunately for many, has become an inconvenience so burdensome, that many prefer to ignore the aged and in some cases, send them into the street as no body’s responsibility.
She noted that while these may solve the problems of the care givers, the aged, who are in dire need of constant care and supervision, continue to suffer health issues needing constant attention as the body gradually weakens physically, mentally and in some cases psychologically. They gradually, lose their sense of sight, hearing and in some cases, their speeches are slow or slurred, to the point where they degenerate to the point of total helplessness in some cases.
Aging for most, starts from age 60-65 and for many, this is the time they retire from active service. While many still go ahead to keep their minds and bodies active, through exercises, activities and being around families and loved ones, many withdraw into a shield that is detrimental to their physical and psychological health.
It is a fact that as the human gets older, he loses his mental alertness, making him/her slow, forgetful and sometimes too sick.
While at this age, constant care and attention is necessary to keep them in a state of near comfort, the issue is not so, especially in Nigeria where many, due to poverty, work even to their graves as a result of lack.
According to United Nations statistics, “one of every 10 persons is now 60 years or older. By the year 2050, one of five will be 60 years or older. By 2150, it will be one of three persons.”
The reality of this, is much more obvious in Nigeria where the aged are left to cater for themselves or left to die without recourse to any form of government or communal protection.
Fear of old age and its attendant health challenges is a reality faced by many who have clocked their 30s/40s as attested to by Mr Uwem Umoh, who says he is over 50 years and afraid of the, “Old age and the attendant challenges of health such as diabetes, arthritis and many other health issues associated with age.”
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Friday, founder of the Amazing Grace foundation, Chief Obegolu, said, “It has been a little bit challenging, in the sense that we want to do so much, but we are constrained by funds, we want to expand, but we are constrained by lack of accommodation and lack of even land to build. We want to help so many people, but the concerns are there.”
“I am praying that the greater public will come to our aid and help us out,” she prayed.
The founder was optimistic that there was better understanding of issues surrounding old people, since they began the Old People’s Home in 2006.
She said, “Yes there is a mass of understanding, all the states have people caring for the elderly now, and even some governors’ wives are using it as their pet projects, looking after the elderly, building houses and taking care of them”.
“God has been wonderful; we started 2006 and began creating awareness. When we started, people asked what we were up too, but today, the idea of elderly, the aged is everywhere. Today, we see people on television, talking about care of the elderly, so we have come a long way and God has been faithful.”
She urged the government to enact laws to protect the elderly. ”They should not only make the laws but implement them. They should take care of the elderly and provide them with adequate welfare, health scheme and make them feel that they belong to this society. Show them love and care, that is all that they need” she reiterated.
A beneficiary of the Home, Mrs Comfort Irianyi, who tells of her experience as a member of the Amazing Grace Old People’s Home, describes the experience as very good.
“The place is well kept and we are well cared for. I am very happy because the place is neat, the home is so good.”
Also speaking, Community Care Lead, Excellent and Friends Management Care Centre (EFMC) Michael Ede while on a vist to the home, said the visit was inspired by the Organisation’s Annual E-Walk, titled “EFMC Week of change”.
He said, “We have a week of change every year and in that week of change, the organisation goes out, seeks to make change and positive impact in the society”.
One of those we had recently, was a visit to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps, Durumi and an orphanage in Kuje. So, each unit in the organisation, would have to do a week of change, in which we will locate a group on something we want to impact and so our unit decided on the Amazing Grace Old People’s Home
So, in our own way, in our own little way, we put smiles on their faces, impact and touch a life.
“The next thing now is to take the information back to our organisation. One beautiful thing is as we record our events today, we will do a presentation of how we impacted lives and one of the ways is
to tell them, we have an Old People’s Home, where we even saw a 105-year-old woman. We will then seek what can be done as an organisation and we can now come in a much better way”.
“Also as families, we will share with friends and families and seek ways to support them, beyond that, government should look for existing homes and support them towards ensuring we have a better society”.
He said, “We are currently collaborating with the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).”
As a means to addressing the challenges of this special segment of society, there is the need to ensure government provides social/economic welfare, subsidise health-care and support homes such as the Amazing Grace Peoples’s Home.
Retirement today only marks a change in lifestyle, not an end to a productive life as was too often the case in the past. Higher living standards and greatly improved healthcare have extended our life expectancy. At the same time, our expectations for our old age have increased.
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