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 age friendly.
The experts also stressed the need to provide health insurance or subsidised healthcare for old people.
Speaking at the first distinguished public lecture and opening ceremony of international training programme 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 in spite of the youth-budge, there was increasing number of older persons in Nigeria and Africa.
According to her, “what we have in Nigeria and other regions is that we have simultaneous challenges. There is focus on employment, enrolment in schools, reproductive health, lowering indexes of maternal and infant mortality, hence there is the tendency to ignore older persons because you think they have already done their bits.
“Our elders grow old does not mean they are not human being. Their values are still with them.”
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 its challenges into developmental policy, and then come up with a pragmatic framework to address it.
“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 such bills to the 9th Assembly and we need the leg
al foundation for the policy to work.”
Also, the Chairman, Governing Board of DOFRIAD, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, said the organisation 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 on ageing in Nigeria.
He stressed that over the years in Nigeria, 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 yawning 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.”