By Cosmas Omegoh, Lagos
As the country joins the global community in marking the United Nations International Day of Older Persons, the OB Lulu-Briggs Foundation has called for greater attention to the basic needs of older persons.
Mrs Ineba Tongkam, the foundation’s Coordinator of Programmes made the call during a programme to commemorate this year’s International Day of Older Persons with theme “Digital Equity for All Ages”.
She said the 2021 theme underscored the growing and central importance of digital literacy around the world, recalling that the disruptive effects of COVID-19 on the global economy and in particular household incomes, had created unique challenges for the vulnerable older persons who are grappling with subsistence needs.
She called on governments and development partners in Nigeria to pay more attention to the basic needs of older persons as an integral part of their strategic responses to vulnerable persons impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The most current data projects that Africa’s older population – 60 years and above – will grow faster than any other region of the world. In 2020, Nigeria had the largest number of older persons in Africa (10.9 million). This is projected to triple to about 33.2 million by 2050, which will be the 11th largest older population in the world. This large cohort of elders will require specialised health, economic and social care which must be planned for today.
Mentioning the foundation’s ongoing 20th year anniversary, she stated that ‘since September 2001 when it was established, we have taken care of the poor and neglected older persons providing them with comprehensive healthcare, feeding and stipends also on a monthly basis. Six hundred sick and neglected elders have benefitted to date. In addition, before the COVID-19 pandemic, we also ran a recreational centre where seniors socialised every weekday, were served two nutritious meals every weekday and had their healthcare needs taken care of. All that is now being provided for them at their homes, alongside the home-bound seniors under our care for the rest of their lives.’
She also noted that the foundation is deepening its work on elders through the N50 million OB Lulu-Briggs Geriatric Endowment Fund at the Rivers State University which was announced in 2019 and launched earlier this year to promote healthy ageing in Nigeria through support for the advancement of scientiﬁc, occupational therapeutic, educational research, and medical care in Geriatric Medicine, and the establishment of a world-class Geriatrics Medical Unit at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital.
She recalled that the foundation now in its 20th year was established by Dr Mrs Seinye OB Lulu-Briggs to implement sustainable interventions that enhance the quality of life for under-served persons, adding that in the last two decades, amongst others, it has provided comprehensive care for the elderly mostly in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.