The Old People’s Association of Ghana, a non-governmental organisation, has celebrated the International Day for Older Persons (UNIDOP), calling on the state to establish care centres across the country where old people can go and socialise.
The Founder of the association, Nathaniel Botchway, explained that many old people were suffering from loneliness, and as such the establishment of such centres would offer them the opportunity to meet their age mates, interact with them and have fun.
“The way the nation takes care of older people is not the best. We have a long way to go. If you go to the homes of many old people, you see them sitting at a corner, and lack company,” he said.
Mr Botchway made the call last Saturday at a gathering of members of the association, mainly old persons above 60 years, to celebrate UNIDOP.
They also went on a float through some streets of Bubuashie in Accra to raise awareness about the association.
What is UNIDOP?
On December 14, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly — by Resolution 45/106 — designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons.
Globally, according to the United Nations, there were 703 million persons aged 65 or over in 2019.
The region of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia was home to the largest number of older persons estimated to be around 261 million, followed by Europe and Northern America — of over 200 million.
The umbrella theme for UNIDOP in 2022 is “2022 UNIDOP: Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World”.
Citing the practice as existed elsewhere, Mr Botchway said in those countries, once a person turned 50 years, they started to enjoy free medical care and there were homes and day care centres for older people to go and have fun.
Highlighting the challenges they faced as old people, he said even though the country had a universal pension scheme, because it required the beneficiaries to contribute before benefitting, many pensioners were left out and as a result were suffering financially.
He said the most difficult challenge they also faced had to do with the fact that many of them who purchased landed property in their hey day went ahead to put structures on them without acquiring the necessary documents, and as a result, they were facing litigation problems on those lands.
He said older persons had rights and responsibilities and as an association, they would assist them to know those rights.
In a message to older persons on the celebration, the Programme Manager, Youth Leaders Fellowship Programme of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Michael Ige, said the organisation was always concerned about inclusion and not leaving anyone behind, whether girls or boys, and that older people were an integral part of their work system.
He called for continual engagement with older persons, stressing that the theme for this year’s celebration was to enable them to get feedback on how the United Nations could come in to provide the kind of assistance older persons needed.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has advocated that ageing issues must be mainstreamed into national development policies to ensure their active participation in society.
It said the active participation of older persons in society and development would provide them with the opportunity to continue contributing to society.
“The commission further recommends to the government to pay attention to, and challenge negative stereotypes and misconceptions about older persons and the aged, pursue age-friendly environments free of physical and social barriers, and enable older persons to realise their potentials, while promoting policy dialogues to enhance the protection of older persons’ human rights, and recognise their contributions to sustainable development,” the CHRAJ said in a statement signed by its Commissioner, Joseph Whittal, to commemorate this year’s International Day of Older Persons.
The statement said in spite of the National Ageing Policy (NAP) which sought to address several ageing issues, there were instances where older persons, especially older women, were abused, violently assaulted and tortured to death by family and community members.
The statement added that the NAP, promulgated in 2010 to achieve the overall social, economic and cultural re-integration of older persons into mainstream society, was yet to be fully implemented.
The National Pension Scheme, the statement said, had a limiting scope, as majority of older persons in the country who worked in the informal sector were unable to contribute to the scheme and were excluded from any pension benefits or any other income support in their old age.
“Also, the National Ageing Bill, which is to integrate the rights and needs of older persons into national policies, is yet to be finalised and passed into law.
“In addition, Ghana is yet to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Older Persons,” the statement said.
The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) has also revealed that the elderly population (60 years and older) has increased almost 10 times in the past six decades — from a little over 200,000 (213,477) in 1960 to almost two million (1,991,736) in 2021.
The elderly population comprises 861,830 (43.3 per cent) males and 1,129,906 (56.7 per cent) females.
“The report further indicates that 341,960 elderly persons are living alone with 62,480 out of that number being 80 years and older.
“The findings also indicate that one out of every four (25.7 per cent) elderly persons is multidimensionally poor, slightly lower than prevails in the total population (29.9 per cent),” a statement issued by the GSS on the occasion of the day of the aged said last Saturday.