Zanzibar — SIGNIFICANT changes have been taking place in Zanzibar to improve the well-being of the elderly people, underscoring successes of the seventh phase government, under President Ali Mohamed Shein.
A noticeable progress so far since the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) include growth of respect to the aged, improved care in the government elderly centres and an increase of the monthly pension from 25,000/- to 40,000/- last year. "Life under GNU has been improving. We no longer cook for ourselves, we are provided with good food three times a day.
The living environment has improved and we now have frequent health check," said Mr Sururu Abbasi Othman, leader at the Sebleni home for the elderly people on Unguja Island. Speaking on behalf of his colleagues at a colourful function to mark the international Day of Older Persons last Monday, 'Mzee' Sururu thanked Shein for his initiatives and the minister for social welfare Ms Zainab Mohamed for her tireless efforts in making sure that the elderly in the islands enjoy the desired life.
But despite the progress in improving life for the elderly in Zanzibar, both the government and the elderly admit that there remains more to do, in implementing plans to protect the unidentified aging people in the islands. "The pension given to the elderly living in government homes for the aged is still insufficient to meet basic needs, prompting many aged people to turn to begging.
This is a challenge we need to overcome by the government increasing the monthly payment," said Sururu. He added that the elderly in private homes should also be given a pension. He said that in addition to their complaints, the elderly lacked honour, respect and care from the community, particularly in villages where many elderly are poor. Likewise, they still lacked support and lived in unfriendly environment.
Sururu observed: "We need easy access to better health for all aged people and free transport on commuter busses." A little more than 99 elderly people are under the care of the government at the elderly centres. The minister for social welfare, Youths and Children development, Ms Zainab said that her ministry was working hard to make sure that challenges affecting the lives of aged people were solved.
"We thank the first president of Zanzibar, the late Abeid Karume for laying a foundation of honouring and caring for the elderly shortly after Zanzibar's attained independence in 1964. We need to support Karume by sustaining support to the elderly," the minister said. President Shein continued to drum up for joint efforts and social responsibility in making sure that all the elderly enjoy good life, as the government prepares a social welfare policy.
"We are now working on social welfare policy to include benefits for the elderly. We have to care for our aged parents to show appreciation for their contribution in developing our country," Shein said in a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of State Dr Mwinyihaji Haji, at the International Day for the elderly celebrations held at Sebleni in Unguja.
An official from 'Help age International' Ms Amleset Tewodros appealed to governments to improve living conditions for the elderly people to reflect this year's International Day of Older Persons theme 'longevity shaping the future.' "... better living particularly providing health to the elderly will help them enjoy life. If the government and individual people work closely, challenges facing the elderly will definitely be minimized," said Tewodros.
The United Nations' (UN) International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually on October 1 to recognize the contributions of older persons and to examine issues that affect their lives. The United Nations says, "one of every 10 persons is now 60 years or older.
By the year 2050, one of five will be 60 years or older; by 2150, it will be one of three persons." According to the World Health Organization (WHO), World-wide, there are around 600 million persons aged 60 years and over; this total will double by 2025 and will reach virtually two billion by 2050 - the vast majority of them in the developing world.
In our fast ageing world, old people will increasingly play a critical role through volunteer work, transmitting experience and knowledge, helping their families with caring responsibilities and increasing their participation in the paid labour force. Already now, older persons make major contributions to society.
For instance, throughout Africa and elsewhere, millions of adult AIDS patients are cared for at home by their parents. On their death, orphaned children left behind (currently, 14 million under the age of 15 in African countries alone) are mainly looked after by their grandparents.
It is not only in developing countries that older persons' role in development is critical. In Spain, for example, caring for dependent and sick individuals (of all ages) is mostly done by the elderly (particularly older women). WHO says such contributions to development can only be ensured if older persons enjoy adequate levels of health, for which appropriate policies need to be in place.
In line with the Madrid International Plan of Action, the World Health Organization launched in 2002 a document "Active Ageing - A Policy Framework", outlining its approaches and perspectives for healthy ageing throughout the life course.