Let's uphold the rights, dignity of the aged in society

Upholding the human rights and dignity of the aged is a major topic that has sadly not been given the necessary attention in the national discourse. 

This is perhaps due to the exigencies of the times and current happenings globally which are engaging the attention of most governments.

They include the global economic downturn due to the effects of the Russian-Ukraine war, post COVID-19 issues, climate change, violent extremism, terrorism, tribal wars, communal violence, disaster and the recent coup d’états sweeping across some countries in the West African region.

However, it is important to note that much as those issues may be dire, the 1992 Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all citizens without recourse to ethnicity, creed, political affiliation, social status or age.

The aged therefore have the right to enjoy all the basic human rights including equal access to public services.

The Daily Graphic therefore wishes to commend the Los Abuelos Foundation and the University of Cape Coast in the Central Region for organising the First Ghana Ageing Conference and Commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons held in Accra last Sunday (see page 13 of Monday, October 2, 2023 of the Daily Graphic).

Former President John Dramani Mahama who was the guest of honour at the event, highlighted the need for the speedy passage of the Aged Persons Bill into law by Parliament, among other thought-provoking suggestions, including the immediate removal of taxes on medical supplies needed for renal dialysis in Ghana.

The United Nations considers old age to be 60 years or older.

In Ghana, the retirement age is set at 60 years.

The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) reveals that the elderly population — 60 years and older — has increased almost 10 times in the past 60 years from 213,477 in 1960 to almost 2 million in 2021.

The report further indicates that 341,960 elderly persons are living alone with 62,480 out of that number being 80 years and older.

The findings also indicate that one out of every four or 25.7 per cent elderly persons is multidimensionally poor — monetary poverty, education and basic infrastructure services.

The increasing ageing population therefore, makes it imperative for an assessment of Ghana’s preparedness to safeguard the well-being of the growing numbers of older persons in the country.

Regrettably, the paper has observed that over the years the nation's ageing population have not fared well.

It is important to point out that ageing comes with a lot of health conditions, including life-threatening ones.

They include hearing loss, cataracts and refractive errors; back and neck pain and osteoarthritis (pain and stiffness, especially in the hip, knee and thumb joints); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression and dementia.

The lack of subsidised health care and transportation, near absence of geriatric centres for specialised care and aged-friendly environments in our communities, abuse of the rights of the elderly, and low pension allowances and income are among other challenges the aged face in our communities.

The paper is saddened by the fact that in some instances, some of the aged are found crossing roads dangerously without any assistance while impatient drivers honk their horns at them, scaring them in the process.

Unfortunately, the youth associate sickness to being old and engage in stereotyping, making old age synonymous with witchcraft, particularly among older women.

Eventually, some of them are barbarically stoned to death.

Such acts amount to serious human rights abuse and must be condemned.

The paper emphasises that after many years of sacrifices to the nation, families and communities, these older people need to be shown love, dignity, compassion and respect.

It will also be crucial to ensure health personnel, especially doctors and nurses, are re-trained in Gerontology ( the scientific study of old age) to enable them to appreciate old age, the process of ageing and the particular challenges that are associated with old age.

The training will ultimately equip them with the necessary skills that will help them to be polite and more accommodating towards the aged who visit health facilities.

Similarly, the youth must be educated on several platforms to be kind to the aged.

Therefore, the paper suggests that the Information Services Department, the Department of Social Welfare and other relevant institutions must come together to carry out intensive public campaigns to ensure the aged are recognised and accepted in society.

This is because whether we like it or not ageing is inevitable just like death, and people must be educated to know that anybody who is young today will certainly grow old in the future.

There is therefore, the need to ensure their inclusion at all levels of nation building because their wealth of experience can be tapped for development.

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