Today is another International Day for Older persons. This was instituted by United Nations in 1990 following Vienna international action plan on ageing. The focus is to examine contributions of older persons and examination of issues which concern them. This is not a public holiday but a day to be observed for issues related to old persons.
In the preceding celebrations, several issues have been focussed on. These includes rights of older people, health, impact of abuses of older persons and essence of inclusive policy which make society to be better off when older people’s are given full attention.
It is no longer a secret in any nation with increasing or large population, a certain percent of this population is always in the old person region. Developing economies like Nigeria cannnot therefore run away from such fact that older population do exist in their Countries. With estimation population of close to 170 Million, with above average of this living in the rural areas, no one can deny that not less than 5% of this population can be classified as old person. This year theme for International Day for Old persons is: “Leaving no one behind, promoting a society for all”.
In every country there is an Act or written Policy which aims to protect and promote issues of old persons. The challenge is in its execution, implementation. For instance in Nigeria we have Old Persons Acts 2009 which states inter alai: proving basic welfare, maintaining and protecting rights of older persons, recreational facilities for old, as well as stimulating consciousness towards achievement of higher level of development and activities for older persons in Nigeria”. In addition to this it also states government will be committed to establishment of National Centre For Elderly Persons.
A critical look at this shows old persons in Nigeria, especially the majority who live in the rural areas have no such privilege nor do they enjoy such things. It is on record that most old persons in Nigeria, especially the uneducated ones, mostly depend on their children. In actual fact, most of the people in rural areas in those days used to have many children which they think we serve as ‘insurance’ for old age.
Unfortunately when they do not a structured programme for their children upbringing such children often grow to become liability to the society themselves. For old persons who had education and had worked for close to thirty five years in the civil or Public service and retire without a good saving do go through rough times. Those who had contributed pension fund had had their pensions stolen by few corrupt officials making life difficult for them at old age.
For real development to take place in any nation, no part of the population must be ignored. In advanced countries, government makes provision for this category of population. It is true government cannot do everything, it must carry along the corporate entity in making sure all goes well. But here it appears there is no deliberate policy which can help boost this ignored population. In order to cater for themselves, we often see some of these elderly people become beggars and nuisance on the public roads and streets. Nigeria’s government and other Africa Countries must have a rethink on their old persons. This population is essential and should not be ignored, neglected or treated anyhere. Here are some of the things that can be done.
Sustainable Policy: from the foregoing, it is very clear Nigeria and most African Countries have a written document or policy for old persons. The challenge is though the policy is very clear such are like toothless bulldogs without a tooth to bite or chew. Most of these Acts and Policies remain and gather dust on the shelf.
Social security: Social security offers a cushon against harsh economic climate across the world. Nigeria governments at different levels must consider a form of social security for old persons especially. We must commend State Governors in Osun, Ekiti among others for taking the lead in this initiative. But we still have a long way to go.
Work on adequate data: getting adequate data is a problem here. Most of what we have is based on assumption or arm chair researches. Government must work on getting adequate data on classification of age group in Nigeria. We may not be able to make real progress until we can speak authoritatively about the number/percentage of the population of old people.
Facilitate knowledge about ageing: Government must continue to facilitate knowledge, create awareness about adequate about becoming old and help citizen to prepare. The way many live here is as if they may will not grow old. Many are not planning for their old age. The take home stipends many make throughout their entire working lives here cannot adequately prepare them for life after retirement.
Promote old people’s rights: in addition to the above, we must be committed to protection and promoting the right of old persons like we have in other climes. It should not be a crime to grow old here. We need to remember the Universal declaration of Human rights article 25 clearly sets out what one should expects with regards to standard of living, adequate for health and well being with regards to medical care among others. It is on record that most western States in Nigeria have free health care for old persons but accessibility, availability and quality can be major issue.