This is another write-up by Chimezie Agwu. Please, read on: At government level, one can say safely that elderly people are not taken care of in Nigeria. One sees some of them, often, on the street or at motor parks, begging for money. Others, women mostly, form singing groups and beg from one house to the other. Some of them also, with gaping sores and suffering from terrible ailments, including infectious diseases and terminal sicknesses, sit or lie down helplessly by the road side, expecting help that may not come.
Money, in various denominations, may be dropped usually around any of such destitutes by sympathetic passers-by because of their situation. In the evening, someone, who displayed the beggar there, like a marketable commodity, comes around to gather the money he made during the day. He then conveys him to a relatively safe place, after which he takes his own share, perhaps, the lion’s share, from the proceeds of the day.
Some of the destitutes, at times, die on the streets and will constitute an eyesore and health hazard to the public. Others may die prematurely in the villages due to hunger and lack of adequate medical care. It will be good, if industries are sited in the rural areas so as to attract the youths, and thus, stop them from drifting to the urban areas in search of jobs and businesses. Their migration has always affected their aged parents and also their elderly family members, who are left in a state of helplessness. Such industries will lead invariably to the development of the rural areas. Social amenities, like hospitals and schools, should be brought nearer to the people.
Non-payment of gratuity and pensions to retired workers, add to the suffering of elderly people in our country. This is also true of the delay in their payment. At times, while carrying out peaceful protests against non-payment of their pensions, or while queuing to be paid, some of them slump and die miserably. It is shameful that honourable citizens, who have served the country meritoriously in their prime, should be left to die in such a disgraceful manner.
Consideration should be given to building of Old People’s Homes in every Local Government Area throughout the federation. Such homes should be equipped adequately and well staffed to take care of old people, who have no one to fend for them. Those of them who are still strong enough to demonstrate some skills in marketing should be encouraged. This will be by the provision of funds. It will keep them busy in the areas that enmesh with their natural ability and interest. Facilities, like radio, TV and some indoor games, should be provided for their comfort and relaxation.
It is a known fact that some old people suffer from loss of memory, which may make them to stray away from their homes. They need to be guided back. In this regard, adequate measures should be put in place to ensure that those of them, being rehabilitated in Old People’s Homes, should remain within their confine. Security should also be mounted to prevent dubious characters from exploiting the inmates.
Children should be encouraged to take good care of their parents, who will in turn, be praying and blessing them for breakthrough and progress among other things. God’s Fifth Commandment says, “Honour your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you”- Exodus 20:12. In the Ten Commandments of God, it is the only one that has a promise attached to it. For any child to ignore his or her parents is wickedness. Some children have been misled in believing that their dad is a wizard or that their mum is a witch. Some children accuse their parents of wickedness. Such unguarded pronouncements are not excuses before God. Proverbs 20:20 states: “Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in deep darkness”.
On the other hand, parents should invest in their children by way of sound education at home and in school. It will make the children to take good care of them in future. The parents will one day quit the stage and come to a quiet harbour in their twilight years. The youths should learn, also to live responsibly so as to grapple the challenges ahead.
The Government should create the necessary awareness about the plight of old people in our society. June 15 is observed every year by the United Nations as, ‘World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’. It is to make people all over the world to be mindful of old people in their midst and treat them with due respect. In Nigeria, we can mark such a day by visiting old people with gifts at Old People’s Homes, where such facilities exist and new ones should also be provided.
Reception parties can be organized for the elderly people during Independence anniversary celebrations, Christmas, Easter and Eid el Kabir. It will make life worth living for them. Low-income workers should be made to benefit from low-income-housing schemes. The cost of such a house should be pocket friendly and payment should be spread over many years. House ownership by workers will definitely go a long way to alleviate the suffering of old people.
Religious organizations should have plans in place for catering for the needs of their old and needy members. The faith of the worshippers will be strengthened when the needy members can look up to the Church for at least one meal a week. It is said that, ‘Someone with an empty stomach cannot shout Alleluia!’ Jesus Christ Himself appears to recognize this axiom in his teaching about prayer. He instructed his followers to pray: “Give us today the food we need” – Matthew 6:11. He also fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish – Mathew 14:13-21.
Town unions meetings should also have interest in the welfare of their old members. Such persons should be exempted from payment of levies often imposed on members for developmental purposes in their towns and villages.
All said and done, the message is that we should all be committed to taking care of old people, a position, nobody will ever avoid. There is a saying: ‘Do not resent being old, for some people are denied that opportunity’. May we not be denied the opportunity of old age, in Jesus name, Amen.
By Chimezie Agwu: [0708 288 2568] – a retired Bank Manager.
For further comment, Please contact: Osondu Anyalechi: 0802 3002-471; [email protected]