They are too old to work and may be suffering from one ailment or another and as must be the case with their families, the society seems to have abandoned them. Where do old folks go when they are out work and alone without anyone to look after them?
If they are sent to a home for elders then it means they have a family that can afford to do so but shouldn’t we have home for elders funded by the government and where all elderly who qualify can reside at no charge to them?
Elderly, in urban centers and the rural areas alike are subjected to numerous inhumane conditions and even persecution. We all know of the witch hunting going on in rural areas where elderly women are even killed simply because they are suspected of witchcraft for as minor and unsubstantial reasons such as having red eyes.
They have been cooking in dingy unventilated kitchens hurled over smoking fire wood all their lives, they may have developed cataract other optometric conditions and we kill them for it! There is need for more efforts to protect our elderly, to honour them and to learn from them for it is they who carry our legacy.
In this regard we must commend efforts of the private sector, CSOs and NGOs like Help Age who work to ensure the universal rights of the elderly are upheld as constituted in our Mother Law. Yet these efforts should not be left on the goodwill donation of other people from corners of the world we don’t even know. They are our parents and grandparents and so there wellbeing lies solely in our own hands.
This is where pension funds come in, the country has some 7 social security funds and who else needs social security than a destitute elderly? Pension funds should invest in set up of homes for elderly all across the country and supervise their management too.
Further, there should be vocational training for staff who will work in these homes under the stewardship of psychology graduates. The entire subsector is almost in existence in our beloved country.
In school, our children do not get the service of counsellors nor are the teachers trained to identify troubled children and how to deal them. By investing in the wellbeing of children and elderly we effectively create numerous jobs and strengthen our social fabric.
It must be a national effort to support the development of social protection policies that recognise a universal social pension as a right of all older people. This means that by merit of age, elderly should be given a monthly payment to sustain them and this should be valued on basis of need.
We should also, through our pension funds, improve access to free, age-friendly health services for older men and women and prevent and manage chronic illnesses.
A legal platform must also be established specifically to empower older men and women to claim their rights and seek protection from violence and discrimination.