By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
Even though she clocked 77 early this year, Dr.(Mrs.)Adebunmi Odiakosa who retired in 1984 as the Chief Consultant at the Institute of Child Health(now Community Medicine in Lagos) is still very much vibrant and vital in the society. Keen on serving humanity, she currently chairs the boards of two non-governmental organizations, Action Health Incorporated and Beth Torrey Home. In commemoration of the United Nations Day of Older Persons observed yearly on October 1st , she recently lamented the plight of aged people in Nigeria during a chat with Vista woman.
Over time, I’ve noticed that majority of aged people in Nigeria seem to be neglected, even by their own children! Again, they are made irrelevant in this fast moving age. One old person once said to me, “I can’t live with my son because the wife does not like me”, but I said to her, “I’m sorry that you have to learn!”.
Young people do not want to live with old people, and they also do not want their old people to live with them! The aged are therefore left to look after themselves. One of the challenges of ageing is difficulty in lifting one’s legs, and this has led to the death of so many aged people because they have to fend for themselves.
What actually hurts me is that I see more old people on the road now than I used to. In the early days, somebody would bring them their food, and children would escort them if they have to go visit anyone! But that scarcely happens these days! The fact that infrastructures like water, etc. are also not easily accessible, add to the problem.
I was told recently that in Lagos State you can no longer have a driving license or renew your old one once you’re 70. This makes things more difficult for aged people who now have to live a more dependent life! However, I’ve observed that some now have to reduce their age to get a license!
I actually believe that officials should know that aged people mainly drive within their vicinities! Besides, they may need the driving license maybe for the purpose of banking.
If young people continue to treat old people this way, making them feel their time has passed and they have no more relevance, they too would grow old into a society where they will not be given a place. Already, they are losing a lot of skills which they ought to have learnt from the older generation. Sooner or later, they will become old too!
I, for instance, have been to a hospital where they could not find my case-note. The next thing the attendant told me was “Hm, people your age are dead. So, what are we looking for your case-note for? You should have been dead!” It’s funny that I take such sometimes as a joke, but it shows seriously how our attitudes are towards aged people, even though asically, I haven’t really had so much negative experiences.
My advice to young people is to learn to care for aged people in their vicinities. The was an old man in my neighbourhood who was blind, and I felt very bad to find that somebody else from outside that vicinity would come to take him for a walk. One day also, as he took him for a walk, he saw somebody selling roasted corn and he bought some for the man.
The way the man rushed over the corn so much touched everyone around! He was very hungry! That’s why I keep telling young people to do whatever they can for aged people who are a little bit disadvantaged in age! It’s also a means of giving something to the society.
Young people really have to learn to give something back to their society. We have a lot of graduates now searching here and there for jobs, but they do not know that in some establishments, employers look at your CV to see if you have ever done any voluntary work!
They want be sure that you have an attitude for giving! Such people with an attitude for giving are believed to be able to do more than they’ve been employed to do when employed! They have a sense of commitment and that’s what employers are looking for!
What some countries have done for old people is to advise their young people to reward them either in cash or kind regularly when they help them look after their little children. In some young families, they have what they call ‘Grannies’ Quarter’. That’s where they go to drop their little children each time they have to leave them at home.
By so doing, their children learn to live with their grannies and also learn some things from them! The granny also will feel relevant! Again, these little children will in turn treat their own parents the same way when they also grow old because they’ve learnt from their parents how to look after old people!
As a matter of fact, parents have to let younger people understand that old people are part of the society, and that whether they like it or not, they too will get old.
What government too can do is to provide special packages for aged people. For instance, they can arrange for easier transportation for them because we’ve had cases where some of them have lost their lives while rushing to join public buses.’