Longevity constitutes a prayer point of an average human being. Parents, relatives, children and acquaintances wish and pray for longevity. However, one of the biggest challenges of old age is lack of attention from those that ought to provide it.
For many of the aged, the blessings of longevity have turned a curse. This is because most young people see old persons as a burden that spending on them is a share waste of resources. Traumatised due to solitude and geriatric health challenges, most of them have become living corpses, as their hitherto loved ones abandon them to live and wait for death.
While narrating their ordeals to Daily Sun, some of them pleaded with the Federal Government and prominent non-governmental organisations to increase their access to proper medical care. They revealed high rate of discrimination against them at public health facilities, lamenting that it ought not to be so and requesting for an intervention that would improve their situation.
Head of Gender, Adolescent Health and Elderly Issues, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Christopher Ugboko, attributed the poor medication of the older persons to inadequate availability of geriatric doctors. He insisted that the reason for insufficient number of geriatric doctors was due to lack of interest of the government in giving adequate care for the elderly, hence the low number of specialist doctors in such field of medicine due to low patronage.
He argued that most people believe that the aged persons have lived their lives and should be left to die, forgetting the importance of their experience in the nation building: “We make plea to the government to think critically about the health and welfare of people above 60 years because the country stands to gain so much from them. Most elderly persons are still breadwinners in their immediate and extended families.
“There is need for government to think of ways to improve the capability, capabilities and potentials of elderly persons. We have just nine geriatric doctors in Nigeria and all of them are trained outside the country because there is no specialist college for them in Nigeria. Also, most of the functional primary healthcare centres in Nigeria focus on maternal and child healthcare and other categories but there is none for the aged who live among us in the rural community.”
Executive Director, Dave Omokaro Foundation, Emem Omokaro, decried the high marginalisation of the aged in every area of life, especially in the healthcare sector. She expressed concern about the attitude of most Nigerians towards elderly persons, adding that they quickly forget that their wisdom and experiences are still relevant.
She disclosed that the population of the older persons has increased in absolute numbers from over four million in 1991 to over six million in 2006, explaining: “It is currently estimated at over seven million and projected to reach almost 10 million by 2020 and 28 million by 2050.
“The experiences of the older persons need to be addressed in Nigeria. Older men and women in Nigeria largely continue to experience systematic inequality and age decriminalization with ageism having a significant negative impact on the realization of envisioned inclusion of all from implementation of the AU Agenda 2063 and SDG Agenda 2030.”
Another aged, James Otaopka, admitted that the health of older persons in Nigeria is not given attention, stressing that the primary healthcare system is not geared towards addressing the health needs of older people living in the communities:
“We are not considered in the primary healthcare system which is the unit that operate is most of our local communities where we reside. Government give priority to units like maternal and child healthcare, younger persons but no one talks of the older persons.
“Although we have lived our lives as popularly believed, we still have one or two things to contribute to the development of this nation and it can only be, if given opportunity to live healthy.”
Audu Adamu, who corroborated Otaopka: “We know we are old but are not supposed to be left to die. Ageing is associated with different types of sickness, which desire proper medical attention, other age cohort have specialised doctors but we don’t have in most hospitals and it is affecting us.”
Another older person, Joy Nwagor, said older persons are like people with special needs, with special attention, emphasising: “There is a stage that one gets to in life and it won’t be everyone that can understand one. That is the same thing with us, the older persons. We need special attention but we don’t get them, especially in the area of health.
“We are not taken into consideration while planning. When you visit most hospitals, you will see that children, pregnant women and other groups have their doctors, but it very rare to meet geriatricians. We are treated by any available doctor which, is not good.
“Even in the hospital no special attention, we are made to pass through all the rigorous stages not minding our age, so, if you don’t have someone as family member to assist you, accessing the hospital is also not easy.”