By Simeon Mpamugoh
It was a day of fun for elderly persons recently as the Senior Citizen’s Association of Nigeria (SCAN) took more than 140 of its members to the Suntan Beach Resort in Badagry, Lagos. The event was tagged ‘[email protected]’
The Lagos State government provided five Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses, an ambulance and a detachment of policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the state police command for the event. The elderly men and women were aged 60 and above.
While some were quite fit, others were supported into the arena by their caregivers. Some of the senior citizens partook in fun activities, including mounting horses and taking pictures at the beach.
One of the participants, Chief Babatunde Bankole, 86, said the event was interesting.
“When my church, First African Church, Iju Ishaga, informed me of the outing, I felt it was vital to attend, hence I volunteered to be a part of it. When I got to the beach, I felt happy and excited,” he said.
The octogenarian said the last time he embarked on such a journey to Badagry was in 1982: “I was then a young supervisor at a mechanic workshop in Navy Town. I used to test-run vehicles after aligning the wheels and other engine repairs from Navy Town to Badagry. But since I left the workshop in 1984, I have not gone as far as the resort. When I got to Ijanikin, I noticed a lot of changes in terms of development.”
He noted that older persons have need of social security, mobility, comfort and financial assistance, and urged government to provide such amenities.
National president of SCAN, Chief Ayorinde Ore, outlined the problems of the elderly in the country, including loneliness and poverty. He said this was so because most of the children of the elderly in Nigeria have their own families and other pursuits and oftentimes abandon their parents.
“But you are lucky if your spouse is still alive,” he said.
Noting that the Lagos State government was working hard to provide free health care for elderly citizens in the state, Ore commended the Sole Administrator of Ikosi-Isheri Local Council Development Area, Hon. Abdul Adewale, for establishing a quarterly health week for senior citizens. He also extolled the wife of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, and others for supporting the elderly.
Ore urged the state government to establish a housing scheme for senior citizens.
“At any point and anywhere, requests by the elderly should be met with dispatch. There should be no queue for elders. It is a privilege to attain old age. It is not for everyone but when one is privileged to attain it, glory should be given to Almighty God, but the glory is greater when it is attained in good health,” he said.
However, Prof. Oluwayemisi Obashoro, executive director, Oluwayemisi Obashoro Foundation (OLOF), regretted that there was no government representative at the event, in spite of several mails sent to the Lagos State Ministry Of Youth, Sports and Social Development.
She said: “The honest truth is that we all will get there, so why don’t we start preparing now by encouraging those who are already there and begin to learn from their wisdom and experience? One cannot claim to be more experienced than the crop of elderly men and women we have at the event,” she said.
Obashoro, a professor of Lifelong and Continuing Education at the University of Lagos, explained that SCAN was trying to become a regulatory body that would harness all the activities of elderly persons in Nigeri: “SCAN is like the umbrella body of the elderly in the society, such that when government wants to talk to old people or wants to announce policy for old persons, it must have a place in the exercise. Some times we don’t blame government for not partnering but it can take the lead and initiative. With SCAN, government can draw a lot of interest on what the body is doing and support it.”
She also explained her involvement with the organisation, even though she was not yet 60.
Her words: “Apart from intellectual empowerment, we sometimes provide financial help to them. We also organise an annual lecture every September on how to age graceful until we all finally end it. We have the association in different locations in the country.”
She encouraged government at all levels to engage elderly persons in a way that would make them productive in their old age.