NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE OBSERVATION OF INTERNATIONAL DAY OF OLDER PERSONS ON 1ST OCTOBER: THE JOURNEY TO ESTABLISH NATIONAL STRUCTURES TO IMPROVE THEIR WELL- BEING
On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly by Resolution 45/106 designated 1st October, as International Day of Older Persons. This is in recognition and appreciation of the varied contributions older persons had made and continue to make to the growth and development of the family, society and the nation at large. It is also to draw attention to the state of their well-being and create opportunities for all, particularly governments to reflect on their levels of commitments towards the improvement of the quality of life of older persons. It is an opportunity as well for individuals to re-examine their own levels of preparations toward old age and the fulfilment of their responsibilities towards older persons in their families and society.
The global theme for this year’s commemoration was “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions”. Unfortunately, as has been the case over the years, the State did not implement any programme for the Day except the visit by HelpAge Ghana, the only national age care non-governmental organization in Ghana, with selected older people from affiliated communities in Accra to the Geriatric Wards of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital to clean, provide lunch and drinks and donate material items to the two wards. One mind-boggling issue in Ghana is how the nation has adopted lackadaisical attitude toward addressing issues bordering on the well-being of older people. We are so fixated to offering them handouts instead of tackling the real issues impacting negatively on the quality of their lives. It took Ghana 13 years to develop a National Ageing Policy (1997 to 2010) and a 5-year Implementation Action Plan which was never put into action and which expired in 2015. The drafting of a National Older People’s Bill is already three years old and yet to be completed.
The sector ministry, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, revisited the process in the middle of this year with support from the Inter-ministerial Committee on Decentralisation and other stakeholders. Zonal and National Consultations on the Bill which began on the 28th of September are presently in progress, starting from the Northern Zone (Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions). We live to see whether this latest initiative led by the sector ministry is meant to complete the Bill, submit it to Cabinet for approval and then to Parliament to be passed into an Act by the end of the year, or it is “business as usual”.
The Act is generally meant to legally define who an older person is in Ghana, further promote and protect their rights, and also to establish the National Council on Ageing which is mandated to among other things develop national interventions and coordinate actions by stakeholders in addressing the many challenges faced by the Ghanaian elderly. An Ageing population as we are presently experiencing in Ghana has both positive and negative implications for national development. It has the potential to overstretch many sectors of the economy – health, transportation and housing, among others and the earlier we put in place the necessary strategies to harness the many benefits of an ageing population, the better it would be for us in our own old age. Articles 37 clause 2 (b) and 37 clause 6 (b) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana lay the foundation for the purpose by making specific demands on the state to protect and promote their rights and to provide them with social assistance to enable them to live and maintain a decent standard of living. We have a duty as a state to curb the rampant violation of the rights of older persons in various forms including witchcraft accusation and its attendant physical and psychological abuses meted to them, especially older women.
We must improve access to legal aid services by older victims of human rights violations. We should not wait for elections to make promises to get their votes. The older generation has seen it all and is now fully aware of this political game. They are waiting for the institution of the Freedom Pass captured in the ruling party’s Manifesto and which the President re-affirmed at the Senior Citizens Day Luncheon on 1st July 2017 to ease their transportation challenges. No one grows younger, but we can live in a Ghana where growing older would be celebrated and not dreaded. Doing it right now is doing it right for our own future. It is a duty to ourselves and the present generation of older persons.
BY: EBENEZER ADJETEY-SORSEY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HELPAGE GHANA.