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Ageing has become a thing these days because millennials seem to be in a world of their own where parents and older relatives are often excluded. As the world spins on its axis, we see the most amazing elder abuse going on. Either the elders are attacked by miscreants for money or they are attacked by their own children who demand the keys to cars or property and manhandle their own parents if they do not get money or property papers which they then sell for easy money. What can we put this down to? Drugs, meanness…? In between all of these are those children who do not visit, do not care and act as if their aged parents do not exist.
Something terrible has happened to our humanity and it is getting younger. These are signs that everyone must invest in their old age. Save enough for a care giver, for health checks, get a medical insurance. Save for a cook, a house help, a driver. Also be careful while you are at it when you do finally have to hire, it pays to do itmost discerningly. These days, helps have been known to attack, steal from or kill their bosses. Who lives with you, no matter the age matters but who lives with you or works with you as you grow older is even more critical. Because you are no longer as energetic and your memory not so keen, they try to take advantage. The sad truth is that today’s children are not anything like we were, very few are incapable of caring for their elderly relatives and very few still are interested in doing so. We looked after our parents till God called them. Effectively managing their emotions, health challenges and all those things related to ageing including but not limited to memory loss, Alzheimer’s and accidents involving fractures.
When I retired from public service two years ago, I was still quite young at 55 and took off to Malta to visit the United Nations Ageing Institute. It was a combination of curiosity, adventure and knowledge seeking. I was interested in how we aged, what diseases were lurking and what one needs to do to stay healthy. I discovered that unfortunately Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world without an ageing policy. Depressing. With so many pensioners and the aged, it is tragic. Ageing policies are critical for data and statistics, for planning and for provision for the ageing. Not having one is simply saying the ageing demographic does not matter and in Nigeria they constitute about 8.7 million of the population and that is a significant number. In a lot of other countries with a smaller ageing population, senior citizens are given special privileges, like percentage off bus rides, hotels and educational opportunities. Some supermarkets apply certain discounts for them. Here not only are they denied the early payment of their due monies, they are often ignored and in their own families suffer discrimination.
My research about how Nigeria ended up without a policy will amaze you. The stake holding ministries of labour and health could not come to an agreement about who to lead the initiative in spite of an international funding to support it. It has stalled for many years and as at the time I attended the policy training in Malta two years ago, there has been no motion on the matter.
I learnt at the Ageing institute that it is good if one can provide the facilities and support care needed for the aged to age in place. In other words, in their homes, where they have familiarity. But this is not always easy as we work away from our parents and we have no choice but to bring them into our homes. Do we have caring people around them even in our homes or we have house helps who yell at them and starve them when we are away? Do we spend enough time with them or we think we are too busy to spend at least two hours with them daily?Are there enough geriatric doctors?
I also learnt that intergenerational ageing is a good thing. We learn from the ageing and they learn from the youth. Young persons who spend time with the aged get seven years added to their lives and it is scientifically proven.
Look after yourself. Plan early. Enough said.