Nigeria: Six Years After, Govt's Proposed Elderly Care Centres Unrealised

11 October 2019

Six years after the Federal Government said it was making efforts to build day care centres for the elderly across the country, checks show none has been built.

The need to build the day care centres for aged persons was a fallout of the United Nations backed report that ranked Nigeria the sixth worst place on earth for old people.

Nigeria uses the age of 60 years and above for the elderly and older population in line with the United Nations agreed cutoff and the retirement age of majority of civil servants in the country hovers around this age.

The National Population Commission (NPC) estimated that in 2015, the elderly population in Nigeria was 9,319,025 and in 2016 and 2017 it increased to 9,622,057 and 9,934,942 respectively.

Elderly care, or simply eldercare (also known as aged care), is the fulfilment of the special needs and requirements that are unique to senior citizens.

Elderly care emphasises the social and personal requirements of elderly persons who need some assistance with daily activities and health care, but who desire to age with dignity.

"Populations with high proportions of the elderly are usually vulnerable to economic challenges and face the heightened challenge of access to adequate health and social care," a recent report published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated.

In October 2013, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development said the Ministry would build the centres to cater to the welfare of elders in the country to not only reduce their plight but take care of those without immediate family members caring for them.

Speaking during the 2013 International Day of Older Persons in Abuja, the then Minister in charge of the Ministry, Hajia Zainab Maina, said, "Despite cultural barriers on the establishment of the old people's home, the ministry was making spirited effort to establish Day Care Centres for Older Persons in Nigeria."

As an indication that none of such centres has been built by the Federal Government more than half a decade later, the same Ministry recently told Daily Trust that there are a total of 25 old people's homes and day care centres for the elderly scattered across Nigeria, all built by missionaries and non-government organisations.

This was revealed by the Head of the elderly branch of Nigeria's Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Elijah Okon Akpan.

The elderly branch of the Ministry is responsible for caring for the country's elderly.

Akpan explained that the Nigerian government has not built any home for the elderly and only supports what missionaries and NGOs built, across the country.

"We take care of people in old people's homes across the country. There are 25 old people's homes and day care centres for the elderly," he said.

"We (government) are not the ones who built them. Only very few states like Katsina, Niger and Kaduna have their own old people's homes. We contribute to these existing ones."

Once a year, he said, the Ministry gives foods items like beans, rice, palm oil, honey and milk among others. The homes, for the rest of the year, are dependent on charity or self-generated funds, to run.

A study conducted by Daramola Oluwaseun and others found that there are usually three main challenges confronting this age group.

The first is poverty, due to loss or reduction of earning power. The second is the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, with the accompanying increased healthcare utilization and financial burdens. Elder abuse has also been gaining attention as a major social problem," the study found.

The study recommended that tackling the challenges required multidimensional approach, joint collaborations and involvement of many stakeholders, hinging on strong government and political commitment, which is critical for effective implementation of any policy.

"It is essential to engage all stakeholders including; governments, institutions, organizations, civil society groups, private sector, community leaders, youth and youth groups, health-care providers, researchers, caregivers, families, older people, and the general public towards developing capacities for translating internationally agreed policy frameworks into practical realities and ensuring that older persons in Nigeria enjoy income security, access to health care and not subjected to abuse," the report stated.

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