By Gabriel Enogholase
FORMER Women Affairs Minister and Proprietress of Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation, ADF, Mrs Josephine Anenih, has inaugurated a Senior Citizens Recreation Centre in Benin City, the Edo State capital to cater for the aged and address the impact of dementia in the society.
The inauguration of the centre attracted large number of senior citizens in Benin City yesterday.
Mrs Anenih on why she established the centre, said: “In most communities in Nigeria, we tend to find it very difficult to understand what is going on with people suffering from dementia.
“More often than not, affected individuals are described as people who have mental disorders and are so maltreated or seen as watches and wizards, which is one of the reasons many old people who have dementia were stoned to death in the past.”
She said her Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation believes that the first thing that needed to be done “is to enlighten the people to let them know that dementia is a medical condition that can happen to anybody getting old depending on his or her genetic composition and some other factors.”
“It is neither a manifestation of witchcraft nor a mental disorder and once we have that understanding, we are starting from somewhere. It is one thing to have an understanding about what the problem of dementia is with aged fathers or mothers, it is another thing to have access to care.
“Are there places to take people who are suffering from dementia to and when they are taking to the place, are they going to receive the best medical attention and what about the affordability? These are issues to be addressed,” she said.
She noted that as a nation, “Nigeria needs to give respect and care to the aged in our community,” just as she disclosed that at the beginning of the decade, there was a report that the country had about 7.2 million Nigerians in the mid year population of the elderly which represents about five percent of the entire population.
“However, the good news is that it appears the Federal Government seems to be thinking along the line of putting policies in place for the aged following the launching of the National Policy on Aging and Aged by the Federal Ministry of Health in conjunction with the chairmen of Federal Teaching Hospitals in Abuja, recently.
“That is a starting point, but it shouldn’t end just as a policy, we need to do something that is implementable. We will need a massive campaign, a public orientation programme for people to know that becoming old should not be a death sentence,” she said.