Many say that age is just a number. But for many others, age is a reality they can relate to with an uncanny familiarity as it ploughs across their backs and pummels their tired bodies and faculties into submitting to the tyranny of time.

In a world that is aging but increasingly ageist, those who find themselves on the grey side of age are increasingly being left all to themselves with far more to do than they could have shouldered in their younger days. In Nigerian culture as in many other cultures, it is easy to hear and hold that old age is a blessing. But how much of this is true especially when put side by side with the current Nigerian reality?

Wisdom is often associated with age. But in a world that tugs at everything and tussles with everything else, even that assertion has become the subject of searing disputes.

Political events in Nigeria have recently helped to stoke the odious fire of ageism with the fractures of a fractious political season effortlessly melding with deep ethno-socio fissures to cast unsavory light on the age of two of Nigeria’s most prominent politicians – Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu – as they ran for the office of the president. Nigeria’s frustrated youth were more than happy to focus an unforgivable searchlight on their age, and highlight how leadership in Nigeria has become reserved for the old and frail with young people reduced to eating crumbs.

On March 8 every other year, the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Women.  It is a day set aside to celebrate women for the indispensable roles they play in today’s world and to reemphasize why the glass ceiling everywhere must continue to crack. It also offers a fortuitous and auspicious opportunity to laud women for the extraordinary work they do in providing care in a world that couldn’t care less about anything.

Women are natural caregivers. From conception to death, every child who grows up to become an adult and runs the full cycle of life knows that care giving is a woman’s forte. It simply comes with the territory. During the two main periods when a person is most vulnerable – being childhood and old age – women are always available.

It is as biological as it is psychological, neurological and even physiological. Women conceive and usually after nine months, they give birth and the process of care and nurturing which began from the womb simply continues. It usually continues through life.

At the twilight of one’s days, when the toll of age takes its trophies, women remain. Experience has also shown that many old people prefer their caregivers to be women. For example, an octogenarian who has five children of three males and two females would most likely prefer to move in with either of his female children than any of the males. The sure hand and natural compassion of women ensure that they retain their appeal as caregivers.

Experience has also shown that in old age, it is women more than men that provide care and support to their parents.

The critical roles women play as caregivers have become ever more necessary in a world where women, children and the aged are coming under increasing danger.

Death continues to hunt women and children. According to data from Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health: 145 Nigerian women die every day from pregnancy-related causes; 2,300 children below age five suffer the same fatal fate daily. These are among the highest rates globally.

Between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will double from about 11% to about 22%. The absolute number of people aged 60 years and over is expected to increase from 605 million to two billion over the same period.

Around 6% of older people in developed countries have experienced some form of maltreatment at home. Abusive acts in institutions include physically restraining residents, depriving them of dignity (by for instance leaving them in soiled clothes) and intentionally providing insufficient care (such as allowing them to develop pressure sores). The maltreatment of older people can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences.

In developing countries, the experiences are sobering. The number of older people who are no longer able to look after themselves in developing countries is forecast to quadruple by 2050. Many of the very old lose their ability to live independently because of limited mobility, frailty or other physical or mental health problems. Many require some form of long-term care, which can include home nursing, community care and assisted living, residential care and long stays in hospitals.

On this day when women are celebrated the world over, it is only just that they are lauded and supported for the critical life-saving care they provide those who are invaluable because they have defied long odds to get to their ripe old age.

These year theme is DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality – A call for action towards supporting women inclusiveness in innovation and technology which is needed, necessary and needful for women operational protocols as a must in their logistics integration in looking after the family as majority leaders at home, for work/ family balance as natural social workers and care givers as all women are workers, but not all women are paid workers.

In addressing this year theme DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality, an emerging epidemic of abuse of women/girl child as emerged, rape by men, regrettable/lamentable are cases/crises of father raping and sleeping with their daughters and much more including husband abandoning/abdicating their fatherhood leadership by reducing women as cooks, housemaids/maidguard and economic providers up to physical abuse in spite of their huge sacrifice, commitment and support to advance the family and the society.  All this and much more help contribute in reducing the longevity in this present age and in our ageing world.

 Ike Willie-Nwobu, Coordinator/President

International Federation on Ageing-Nigeria (IFAN)

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