UN Day For Older Persons: NGO Advocates Targeted Government Actions

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On October 1, the world commemorated the ‘United Nations Day of the Elderly’, In this interview, OMONU YAX-NELSON, took up the issues of the sorry tales of the life of elderly persons, globally, especially, Nigeria, with Mrs Chinyere Ezeh, Executive Director, I-Care Initiative for the Elderly Persons.

A non-governmental, I-Care Initiative has called on the Nigerians and government to give priority attention to the plight of the aged in our society.

This call was in commemoration of the UN General Assembly designation of today as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The day was so designated in December 2011, following a request by the International Network For The Prevention Of Elder Abuse.

The Executive Director of I-Care Initiative For the Aged, said, her organisation joins the whole world to voice its opposition to abuse and suffering inflicted on the older generation in Nigeria.

We acknowledge that Elder abuse is a global social issue affecting the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world including Nigeria and we applaud the deservedly attention being given it by the international community.

Ageing population issues constitute the fulcrum of post 2015 Sustainable Development goals (SDG) more so now that the population of older persons is fast increasing and their well-being dwindling especially in the third world countries.

These changes have led to a worldwide recognition of the problems and challenges that face the elderly. Research has shown that elderly abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation are the biggest issues facing senior citizens. This is corroborated by the World

Health Organization data which reports that 4 to 6% of the elderly suffer from some form of abuse; a large percentage of which goes unreported.

In Nigeria, poverty is widespread and older persons are at higher risk, unfortunately the Nigerian government does not provide social security to older persons and supports from families are fading out due to cash crunch and other economic realities.

Therefore the well-being of older persons is largely compromised and this calls for concern. Due to the youthful nature of the Nigerian age structure, government surreptitiously believes that the health problems that manifest among children, youths and women require more alteration than that of the older persons.

As a result, very little consideration is given to the older persons by policy makers. No policy or social security system is put in place to care for people in old age just as the primary healthcare system has no special provision for providing healthcare for the elderly even as the country’s overall health policy show little or no special concern for the aged.

Retirees who served in public or private organizations in their youthfulness are often given gratuities and pensions which were deducted from their monthly salary when in active service. Most times, these dues are not received in their lifetime as a result of the bureaucratic system in the various organisations where they served.

At the I-Care initiative For The Aged, our desire is to give voice to the older persons in our midst as well as speak up for their fundamental human rights. Till date, the rights of older persons have not been included in Nigeria political priorities hence as a result, a lot more remains to be done so that the UN Charter on the rights of the older person is made visible in Nigeria.

Mrs Ezeh, said, the older persons in our society must be supported to live longer and healthier life.

She said, the focus of I-Care Foundation is aimed at recognizing the contributions and vision derived from the sacrifices and experiences of older persons around the world.

The International Day of older persons is an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues and challenges of ageing in today’s world.

Theme of this year’s United Nations Day for the Aged has a theme; ‘’take a stand against ageism. Ageism is a human right issue which affect millions of older persons around

Mrs Ezeh said, in view of the importance of the Aged people in our midst, their plight deserves Nigeria and the world attention.

“Ageism affects millions of older persons regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic class. In Nigeria, Ageism has created a society that is youth centered and present an unfavourable image of older persons.

“The older persons deserve attention as anyone else. As the late anti-apartheid Icon, Nelson Mandela would say, ‘A society that does not value its older people denies its root and endangers its future”.

The Executive Director said, since 2014, I-care Initiative for the Aged has been sensitizing Nigerians on the plight of older persons.

We have taken the sensitization campaign to villages, T.V and Radio Stations on an impactful advocacy.

“Our target is to raise the consciousness of Nigerians on this issue which demand attention. This year, we are organizing summit on ageing.

This summit will bring together, older persons and youths from different strata of our society. They will add their voices on the need for a policy action by the government.

The objective ultimately is to foster inter-generational relations which is key to ending Ageism and build the capacity of older persons to age actively and gracefully.

The Government knew about the plight of the aged in Nigeria, but has not demonstrated enough interest in the plight and welfare of the older person. Even though it’s not running any worthwhile programme for them.

For a real development to take place in any nation, no part of its population must be ignored. Youth mentorship by older persons was one of the more promising approaches to promote positive youth outcome which Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore used in transforming his country.

In this period of recession, Nigeria Government needs the wisdom and experience of older persons and the agility of the youth.

I-Care Initiative for the aged commits itself to the mobilization of Nigerians to a better understanding of the condition and situation of older persons.

In our work plan for 2016, the keyword has been advocacy because when we started, most people didn’t see ageing as an issue. We had cases of people abandoned by their children due to negative beliefs, myths and stereotypes of ageing.

We have disseminated information on ageing through print, electronic and social media. I-Care Initiative is networking with other civil society groups, with the view to propose a private bill on the right of the elderly persons in Nigeria to the National Assembly.

“I-Care recognizes that ageing is not a disease but a normal biological process in life cycle. To achieve this, we started an active ageing campaign, were we encourage older persons to age actively by remaining useful after retirement; we build their capacity on income generating activities after retirement.

We also visit them in their homes to remove all negative beliefs, myths and stereotypes of ageing.

Mrs Ezeh said, her organisation is putting together a summit on ageing. The summit billed to take place at the National Press Centre, Abuja has the theme; “Towards an age-friendly nation: The need for a policy action.

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