NEWS COMMENTARY ON LESSONS OF THE PAST AND CARE FOR THE ELDERLY
Old age we are told is a stage everyone will get to in life, if we are blessed with a long life. With the advent of modernity, our time tested and culturally fine communal care for the aged has fast been eroded, in favour of foreign practice. That is the reality we face today as a nation on the issue of the plight and care of the aged. Since it is a stage that we shall get to, it will sound a little funny to ask, if anyone has come across an old person or an aged person before?
In fact, aged people are great assets to every society, yet Ghana appears to be living in denial and our society is allowing this special class of people to live in an “empty nest syndrome.” What we shouldn’t do, is that we do not take advantage of the calmness of older people in their predicament. Culturally, homes for older persons or the aged are not encouraged. The aged need special care and attention. The changing and engaging scenes of modernity have made many families to outsource the responsibility of tendering to their aged parents to special homes.
The pressure of work and search for money have all ganged up to render many people simply unable to devote love, care and attention to their aged parents. This situation has created an unintended army of destitute, older persons living with mental rejection, depression, and socially despised. Have we as a nation got to the state to consider putting up Special homes for the care of the aged in our part of the world? The practice to build homes for older people or the aged, dates as far back as 1870 in Cleveland, USA. It was a shelter to provide care and medication to this vulnerable group in society.
Ghana’s elderly population is about 70 percent.
A policy document drafted in 2003 on aged persons has gathered enough dust on the shelves. This document contains much to improve the lot of the aged in our society. Or is it the case that the powers that be on this matter are dragging their feet on its passage and implementation? We need a cup-bearer that will tell Pharaoh that there is a Joseph that can pass the bill for others to benefit. Whatever the case maybe, individuals have opened aged private and commercial homes in Accra, Tema, parts of Volta and Eastern regions, where care is provided at a fee. Government needs to defy all odds and take a bold decision on this matter. It is a worrying issue that some aged people today have no shelter to live the rest of their lives until their maker calls them home. In the book of Job 12: the verse 12, it espouses that “Wisdom belongs to the aged and understanding to the old”. A treasure trove we least respect. Even King Solomon, considered as the wisest man ever to walk this earth, sought the expertise of older men, who helped him make important decisions about his kingdom, Israel. Again as Martin Luther King Junior once said “No work is insignificant. All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
How far has this touched Ghanaians to cater for older people in their twilight years whilst waiting for God’s call? In 2019 the WHO reported that aged people globally numbered about one billion and will increase to 1.4 billion by 2030 and 2.1 billion by 2050. Furthermore by 2050 about 80% of older people will be living in low- and middle-income countries. Old age, without any doubt, is a problem confronting all governments to handle. “Old people deserve a medal of existence, which crowns their long-term victory against the cruelty of time and the dangers of this chaotic universe”.
The common conditions in old age include hearing loss, cataracts, refractive error, back and neck pains, diabetes, dementia and depression, not forgetting debilitating illnesses like cancer and insanity. How many older people can surmount these conditions in their private homes with their families?
Yes, the ”haves” can and the ”have not”, are the disadvantaged majority. It is not where you are in life; it’s who you have by your side that matters. Old age is the last stage in the life processes of an individual. No matter how old we live, we should not be regarded as chromosomal garbage. After all, it is said, you came from dust and you will return to dust; Genesis 3: 19. Let us not forget, everybody is a potential candidate for old age.
Older beings are connected by generations and teasingly referred to as time worms and in the extremes as witches and wizards. Unreservedly put, no one can proffer all the solutions facing the aged.
At best we can empathically stretch a helping hand to these vulnerable groups. To overcome this challenge, older persons have to adopt coping strategies to be resilient. The National Programme Coordinator for Healthy Ageing Programme of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Frank Dzifa Kpesenu advocated the training of specialized health workers to handle Older Persons at District Hospitals. One thing is clear and that is, that old age is inevitable and issues affecting older persons need to be conducted at supersonic speed and with respite, not despised to inspire hope and not despair before exiting planet earth. The Older generation are vulnerable to the vagaries of society. Robert Breault said “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day, you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
Written By: Jonas Anbazu.