UN Decade of Healthy Ageing: Roberta Adutwumwaah Ntem named among global top 50 caregivers

BY: Severious Kale-Dery
Roberta Adutwumwaa attending to an elderly woman during one of her visits. INSET: The entire team of Good Old Age Golden Foundation with an elderly person after the presentation of a wheelchair
Roberta Adutwumwaa attending to an elderly woman during one of her visits. INSET: The entire team of Good Old Age Golden Foundation with an elderly person after the presentation of a wheelchair

A young Ghanaian, Roberta Adutwumwaah Ntem, has been named among top 50 individuals globally for their contribution towards the aged by Healthy Ageing 50.

The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030) is an opportunity to work together to improve the lives of older people, their families and the communities in which they live.

Healthy aging

The Healthy Aging 50 initiative, therefore, explores the stories and work of 50 leaders transforming the world to be a better place to grow older.

The Healthy Ageing 50 recognises the contributions and showcases their work as inspirational examples of what individuals are already doing to make the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing’s goals a reality.

The 50 individuals, described as trailblazers in what they do and how to do it from around the world, have been recognised as part of the first ever Healthy Ageing 50 leaders transforming the world to be a better place to grow older.

A press statement issued in Geneva explained that the individuals were evaluated by an expert panel of reviewers from across international organisations with over 500 nominations received across all Sustainable Development Goal regions.

“The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing offers us an unprecedented opportunity to put in place the right policies and services so that more people experience later life in good health and can continue to do the things they value.

“I have the pleasure of recognising these world-changing leaders who, often with limited resources, show what can be done — and how — to improve health and wellbeing for older persons,” the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in the statement.

Inspirational champions

The statement said this year’s Healthy Ageing 50 recognised inspirational champions that showcased what was already possible in the area of healthy ageing, whether at local, national, regional or global levels.

“From combatting ageism and developing age-friendly environments, to implementing integrated care and ensuring access to long-term care, the Healthy Ageing 50 demonstrates that actions taken across sectors can transform our world to meet the needs and aspirations of current and future generations of older people,” the statement said.

It is the belief of Ms Ntem that everyone deserved dignity and respect, particularly the aged, but realised that in some communities, older people experienced significant neglect and abuse.

This is because of ageist perceptions that unfairly characterise older people as possessed by evil spirits, demons, witchcraft, or sorcery ¬– solely based on their age.

That is how Ms Ntem began her work with the aged over the last eight years within the Central Region, putting smiles on the faces of the elderly, who, otherwise do not get affection from the people around them.

Ms Ntem, one of the youngest of the listed leaders, desires to fight inhumane treatment towards older people and therefore, she started visiting such older persons in her locality, helping and running errands for them.

Her interaction with the aged was an eye-opener as she got to realise that most of the aged had been neglected by their own families and they lived in inhumane conditions.

Formation of organisation

While doing what she loves best — helping the aged, Ms Ntem was advised by the Department of Social Welfare to formalise her passion and that led to the establishment of Good Old Age Golden Foundation (GOAgF).

A purely voluntary civil society organisation (CSO), GOAgF is being run by enthusiastic young individuals, mostly students, spearheaded by Ms Ntem.

Currently, Ms Ntem is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GOAgF and with the support of her colleagues, she is realising her dream of putting smiles on the faces of the aged, who otherwise had no one to attend to them.

Sharing her experience with the Daily Graphic, Ms Ntem said the GOAgF was set up as a civil society organisation that sought to educate local community members on ageing and the changes associated with it.

Through the GOAgF, Ms Ntem works to raise awareness about ageism and promote intergenerational contact between younger and older people.

"She has also worked to provide local older people with substantive assistance such as health care support through public health outreaches and provision of walking aids and assistance to help older people reach hospitals when they are ill.

COVID-19 pandemic

"But it was during the COVID-19 pandemic that we were needed most of all, when older people faced challenging situations not only due to being at greater risk of contracting and being negatively impacted by the disease but also due to the pandemic’s exacerbation of ageist attitudes," she told the Daily Graphic.

To support older people, Ms Ntem through the GOAgF initiated the "COVID-19 Support for the Aged" campaign to educate older people in their homes about the virus, how it spread, the need for them to stay home.

"I sewed about 1,000 nose masks which were then distributed freely to these older people in and around Cape Coast in the Central Region," Ms Ntem added.

She also produced hand sanitisers, liquid soap and resource packages containing food, water and other necessities for the older people who could not afford them.

Nonetheless, her work is a shining example of the impact that local work can have even within constrained situations, and points to the importance of fostering healthy ageing across all regions of the world.

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