By Funmi Olasupo
Abuja – In effort to provide a sustainable national framework for the care of older persons in the country, federal government has announced that it will soon launch a National Policy on Ageing in the country. The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina announced this on Tuesday at the opening of a 2-Day National Summit on Ageing and Older Persons, organized by her ministry in collaboration with Dave Omokaro Foundation and other stakeholders, to mark this year’s International Day of Older Persons in Abuja.
She said, her ministry will commence updating the National Policy on Ageing and that of Social Welfare to provide a suitable national framework for care of older persons in Nigeria
The Minister noted that health and income security is the greatest challenges government faced with ageing population.
According to her, “Their sacrifice, wisdom and experiences have remained and continue to be the pillars of support and stability in our nation. They should enjoy a life of rest, comfort, security and active participation in the economic, cultural and political life of their communities.
Hajia Maina stated further: “We value greatly our senior citizens as very important stakeholders in national development. Consequently my ministry will commence updating the National Policy on Ageing and that of Social Welfare to provide a suitable national framework for care of older persons in Nigeria.”
Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr Habiba Lawal, the Minister maintained that income security and health care are frequently mentioned by older persons as their most urgent concerns and these issues are also major challenges government is facing regarding the ageing population.
She stressed the need to integrate older persons into the mainstream of the Nigerian society and allow them to participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that affect their well-being, adding that the elderly should benefit from family and community care and protection in accordance with each society’s system of cultural values.
She noted; “They should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and healthcare and have the chance to work or have access to other income generating opportunities. They should be able to live in environments that are safe and adequate to personal preferences.”
She said her ministry has embarked on programs to improve the welfare of senior citizens, such skills acquisition and income support for older persons, community-based care programs through material assistance to Old People’s homes, and the yearly observance of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons, among others.
Earlier, the International Co-ordinator of Graceful Ageing Fellowship, Senator Eze Ajoku called for more recognition and support for the Elderly, saying a Ministry for the aged should be created just as we have a Ministry for the Youth.
Senator Ajoku called for a national program on ageing that will ensure they have adequate care like the provision of free medical care as obtainable in other countries. He also called for the establishment of Day Care Centres for the elderly to help them from being abandoned by their family members.
Also speaking, the Representative of the World Health Organization, WHO, in Nigeria, Dr Rui Vaz, emphasized the need to tap into the wealth of experiences of our Senior Citizens as this “could lead to important solutions for sustainable development challenges.”
He said: “This is particularly true in indigenous communities like ours where older persons could offer invaluable insights for solving some of the most pressing sustainable development issues.”