By Kehinde Akinfenwa
THE fast-growing number of older adults in the last few decades has impacted significantly on the political, economic and social functions of societies across the world. But unlike in the past, this generation is more likely to live separately as globalisation, urbanisation, migration and changing gender norms are influencing the lives of older people in direct and indirect ways. Perhaps, the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat exposed our ineptitude towards the care for the elderly.
And like other African nations, old-age mortality has continued to decline in Nigeria as the number of surviving generations in a family has increased. Our attention towards the older population is dwindling which further demands that we interrogate the social change that is breeding such alienation.
However, in spite of its multicultural attendance, Lagos State is among the elite cities genuinely and morally offering tributes to the older population and abolishing the apathy that oftentimes subject them to series of abuses. The Sanwo-Olu administration in the state has established a social network opportunity that is descriptively reinforcing the delight and eminence of having the elderly as an invaluable asset to humanity.
In congruence with its principle of equity and social justice, concerted efforts towards ensuring a gracious older life are taking centre stage in the whole polity of the government. Thus, appropriate support mechanism for older persons is in the mainstream of its social and economic planning. Giving the dynamics of this population and the myriad of psychological, social and environmental vulnerabilities that comes with aging, the system is responsibly providing collaborative and symbiotic services to aid the psychosocial security of the elderly in the state.
In accordance with the World Health Resolution, a comprehensive Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health, the government is steamrolling series of gerontological support to improve the quality of life of its senior citizens. As the social structure is strengthening the existing traditional institutions as an integral component of family support in the aging process, lofty intervention programmes for the elderly continue to dot the nooks and crannies of communities across the state.
To invariably expand the net of vulnerable senior citizens cared for by the government, construction of additional elderly care centre is ongoing at Epe, while two other centres are being proposed at Alimosho and Badagry to complement the services rendered by the state-owned Old Peoples Home in Yaba. The Yaba Centre is a multi-residence housing facility set up to provide formal long-term care for senior citizens aged 60 years and above. It meets a variety of services both medical and rehabilitative.
Along with other geriatric aid, government has established a health care resources protocol as sustainable efforts are in top gear to activate free medical services at various state-owned hospitals for the elderly. Beside this, citizens should also brace up for the Elderly Bus Pass, EBP, programme which is designed to offer the elderly ones in the state a limitless access to board free BRT buses to anywhere in the state.
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Among the most important policy concerns relevant to health and longevity are the future fiscal viability of pension. And aside the Governor’s recent approval of a 33 per cent increase in the monthly payments for defined benefit pensioners in the state, conjugally, the state has expressed its resolve to clear all pension arrears by 2022 to ensure retirees receives their pension hastily. These bouquets of charitable presents are structured to provide an awesome reception into their world of dotage.
More can still be done, creating old age benefit fund or supplementary earning for persons of 60 years and above, establishing a mental health and community support services can be a model for successful ageing. People only live longer because of better nutrition, sanitation, health care, education and economic well-being. The society as a whole need to address the ageist attitudes, which is discriminatory and affect the way policies are developed and the opportunities older people have to experience healthy aging.
Absence of functional national policy on the care and welfare of older persons, changing demographics, the breakdown of the family structure and absence of a social security system, present unique challenges to the elderly in Nigeria. Therefore, the compassionate undertakings by the state government is an advocacy for governments across the country to accordingly frame policies that will respond to this current and projected transition.
Undeniably, an ageing population poses numerous social and economic challenges, but the right set of policies can equip society to address these challenges in time. Little or nothing has been heard on the implementation of the National Senior Citizens Centre Bill signed by President Buhari in 2018. While it is anticipated that the bill will be reviewed to meet the exigencies of the present reality, all tiers of government owe it to humanity to establish intersectoral alliance that will bequeath a decent life to citizens at the twilight of their years.
More importantly, the perennial challenges on the pension scheme which is meant to be a succour to retirees should be diagnosed with the desire to finding a lasting solution to it.
Many elderly men and women lack the customary familial support system. A longer life brings with it opportunities; the chance to pursue new activities such as further education, a new career or a long-neglected passion. Yet the extent of these opportunities and contributions depend heavily on a well-conceived social security programme. With improved policies and strong institutions that promotes economic growth, sustainable cities and communities, peace and justice, the path towards memorable older years can be insured.
Healthy ageing plays a pivotal role in the attainment of the SDGs. Estimates indicate that there will be higher population of elderly people than those under the age of five. Modern society must, therefore, be preoccupied with the socio-political, economic and health service delivery systems that will provide optimal support to older persons.