The abysmal attention policy makers give to the peculiar plights of increasing population of older persons in Nigeria has come under spotlights.
Dr. Emem Omokaro, the executive director of the Dave Omokaro Foundation who first drew the attention of the media and other stakeholders at an interactive session in Abuja noted that there is need to do away with discriminatory policies affecting the older persons.
Titled “The Status of National Ageing Framework, Policy and Institutional Capacity to Enhance Healthy Ageing in Nigeria”, the interactive session had in attendance government representatives, leaders of nongovernmental organisation and the media.
Setting the tone for the discussion, Dr. Omokaro lamented the absence of clear dedicated social investment programmes that target the older persons, disclosing that only about 4% of orders persons in Nigeria are pensionable.
According to her, with the population of the older persons expected to hit ten million by 2020 from 7.5 million in 2013, there are no dedicated funds for the welfare of that category of citizens, especially those in the rural areas.
Dr. Omokaro therefore called on the media, and other stakeholders to draw attention to the policy gaps in the national development agenda, especially issues like universal healthcare and social protection that overlooked aging persons in their provisions.
“The experiences of older persons need to be addressed in Nigeria. Older men and women in Nigeria largely continue to experience systematic inequality and age discrimination,” she said.
Dr. Omokaro, who is also the Co-chair of the Stakeholder Group on Ageing Africa (SGA-Africa), commended President Muhammadu Buhari administration for signing the National Senior Citizens’ Centre Act 2018 passed by the National Assembly into law. She then called for speedy implementation of the policy and the inclusion of funding targeted towards aging persons in Social Protection Programmes.
The Head of Gender, Adolescent School Health and Elderly division at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Christopher Ugboko, attributed the poor medication for older persons in Nigeria to a dearth of geriatricians in the country.
He said that because of the low priority that is placed on the specialty in Nigeria, very few doctors are motivated to specialise in the field.
He explained that a lot of people have the attitude that older persons have lived their lives and should be left to die, forgetting the importance of their experience in the nation building.
“Our recommendation is that government should think critically about the health and welfare of people above 60 years because it stands to gain alot from these people.
“Most older persons are bread winners; if they are breadwinners and have nothing, how are they going to take care of the families?
“There is need for government to think of ways to improve the capability and potentials of elderly persons.
“There are just nine geriatricians in Nigeria and all of them were trained outside the country because there is no specialist college for them in Nigeria.
“Most of the primary health care are functionally focused on maternal health care, but there is no concern for the older persons who live among us in rural communities.
“Health is the basic information you can give to them for their lives to be improved, not that if you get old you will be left to die”, Dr. Ugboko said.
On his part, the Faculty Member of Dave Omokaro Foundation Africa Institute on Ageing and Development (DOFRIAD) and Community Physician, Dr. Felix Oyare, called for the modification of primary healthcare centres to include sections that cater to the health challenges of older persons.
He also stressed the need for training and re-orienting healthcare workers to equip them with necessary skills for the proper care of aging individuals.
This is even as the Registrar of Dave Omokaro Foundation Africa Institute on Ageing and Development (DOFRIAD), Mr. Ibrahim Dan’lya, challenged the media to drive serious discussion and play a role in mounting pressure on the Nigerian government to address policy gaps in issues affecting older persons.
Another stakeholder, the former Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Josephine Anenih called for concerted efforts by relevant stakeholders towards healthy ageing in the country.
Mrs. Anenih commended the efforts of the Foundation in advancing the course of better welfare package for the older persons in the country.