Experts Urge FG to Provide Integrated Health Polices for Aged People

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Experts have called on the federal government to provide integrated health policies for older people in Nigeria, saying there is need to make the country’s health care age friendly.

The experts also stressed the need to provide health insurance for old people or it should be highly subsidised.
Speaking at the first distinguished public lecture and the opening ceremony of the International Training Program in Gerontology and Geriatrics, organised by Dave Omokaro Africa Institute on Ageing and Development (DOFRIAD), Prof. Funmi Togonu-Bickersteth, of the Department of Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said there was need to provide health policies that support individuals at various stages in life.

Earlier, the Executive Director, DOFRIAD, Dr. Emem Omokaro, said that inspite of the youths’ budge, there were increasing number of older persons in Nigeria and Africa.

According to her, “what we have in Nigeria and other Africa regions is that we have simultaneous challenges.
“They focus on employment, they focus on enrolment in school, they focus on reproductive health, they focus on lowering indexes of maternal mortality, infant mortality, at the same the tendency to ignore older persons because you think they already done their beats.

“But when you look at human rights, the fact that they grow old does not mean they are not human beings.”

Omokaro noted that there was need for the government to put in place framework to tackle the problems being faced by older people.

She stated: “Government should look at ageing as a development issue, mainstream the challenges of ageing into developmental policy, pragmatic framework and attack it just as it is attacking the problem of youths, in fact inter-generational synergies are the best.

“The policy framework has to come from government, without a policy, you don’t have an action plan. Give us the legal framework, the policy framework, the strategic implementation plan, then everybody goes to work.

“We look forward to re-introducing the bills to the ninth assembly and to work with them to creating new bills and we need the legal foundation for the policy to work.”

Also, the Chairman of the Governing Board of DOFRIAD, Prof. Akpan Ekpo said the board was a response to challenges of glaring deficit in aggregated data on older persons as well as gaps in policy, normative and pragmatic action frameworks in ageing in Nigeria and Africa in general.

He stressed that over the years, the development of responses and policies to address implications of increasing absolute numbers of older persons and perceived challenges of this cohort of population 60 plus, appear to be halfhearted, ad-hoc and reactive, as ultimate care of the old continues to fall solely to family.

Expo stated: “Challenges and their structural components leading to gaps in support systems for older persons are traceable to ageism, discrimination, misperception and obvious limited institutional and personnel capacity, including knowledge of ageing as a population issue in development and the economic and socio-cultural opportunities that can accrue from inter-generational synergies, life course and human right approaches to development.

“Also, not properly evidenced, are the demographic dividends that can be harvested from investment in the capacities of older persons and the growing need for geriatric health care services and products.”