Abuja — Former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, has challenged the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to institute a scheme that will cater for the rapidly ageing population.
He said government is not as serious as religious bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private individuals in addressing the needs of older people.
He said: "We must have a centre where older people can play Ludo and have fun; when they are ill, they need a knowledge caregiver to engage them mentally.
"In other countries, the aged are given drugs for non-communicable diseases; they are given bus-pass free but here, we do not even have very functional transport system."
Speaking at the inauguration of the Governing Board and Advisory Council of the Dave Omokaro Africa Institute on Ageing and Development (DOFRIAD), over the weekend, Okojie said most people have aged largely as a result of economic hardship and not necessarily age.
Okojie, who chaired the inauguration said:"What have we for them. The aged in the villages are not taken care of. There are widows in churches, mosques and everywhere; we need to educate our society.
"We should age gracefully and care for those ahead of us and encourage them to go for medical check ups."
He said ageing is currently a big concern in the country as older persons often cry out on national television for support to meet their medical needs.
However, Executive Director of the foundation, Dr. Emem Omokaro, said ageing is an industry and could employ a lot of youths as care-givers.
She said the institute, when fully operational, would exploit the opportunities and train youth on how to take advantage of the industry.
Omokaro said that in another 30 years, a lot of youths would have become older persons and that the knowledge acquired, would help them prepare for it.
According to her, there were currently about 8.9 million older people in the country while the number is expected to grow to 28.9 million by 2030.
She said: "If government does promote healthy ageing now, if government does not step in now to provide social nets for the vulnerable, ageing will cause poverty and deny children education.
"Issues of ageing does not only affect the old man in the village, it cuts across all the age bands; that is why government must face it and tackle it."
Omokaro said that the foundation focused on research, capacity-building, advocacy and stakeholders' engagement on ageing.
She said the foundation recognised the inevitability of ageing and the need to adequately prepare all stakeholders such as government, civil society, communities and families for the growing number of older persons.
She said the central challenge is the failure of public policy and live-cause strategy for addressing the challenges of ageing, adding that the failure was hinged on lack of institution and human resources capacity, policy and research gaps.