NGO Calls on FG to Legislate On How to Improve Welfare Of The Aged

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By: Seye Joseph –  

A non-governmental organization (NGO), Sunshine Foundation for the Elderly, has called on the Federal Government to facilitate new legislation that would promote the welfare of the elders, who are the senior citizens in the country.

According to the President of the Foundation, Barrister Rose Odiete, for the vulnerable old people in Nigeria to enjoy social benefits, more care and support, there is need for more favourable policies and legislation by the government.

Speaking on Monday at the Sunshine Foundation Easter Party for the elderly in Lagos to educate the older generation on exceptional health tips, Odiete stressed that the federal government has a role to play in promoting the welfare of the older people in the society.

According to her, “While we already have some NGOs promoting the course, the government is expected to formulate policies and put certain laws into the society that will benefit the older generation.”

She stressed that once people have lived to the age of 60 years and above serving the society in whatever form and capacity, the society should be able to give back to them.

Odiete argued that the government must design and develop a system to protect the senior citizens at this stage of their lives as the elderly are more vulnerable to certain old age challenges, particularly health and financial issues.

She cited other countries of the world where people above 60 years enjoy free healthcare services, access to accommodation among other benefits, adding that, “Definitely, all these are the things our government should provide for the old people.”

Beyond the government’s role in seeing to the welfare of old people, Odiete stated that the society should wake up to the consciousness of caring for the vulnerable in the society who, according to her, include the very young, women and the elderly.

Founded 26 years ago by late May Ellen Mofe-Damijo (MEE), frontline journalist and publisher of Classique magazine, the Sunshine Foundation runs two major programmes annually which are Easter party for the elders and annual seminar, which has been sustained over the past 26 years as part of its dream of giving back to the society. The foundation usually employs these fora to invite medical doctors and health practitioners to enlighten the elderly on how to take care of themselves, live and age gracefully.

“For the annual seminar, we have identified various health challenges facing the old people in our society and we have created an interface between the elderly and health experts to proffer solutions. These are the things we do.

“We also have our pipe dream, which is to establish an elderly centre but this has not really seen the light of day because it requires a large sum of money and for this we need assistance. We are, however, hoping that in the nearest future, we would have people who will support us to actualize our dream of building the elderly centre”, she explained.

She disclosed that the proposed elderly centre is a place older people can visit with the younger people and share experience and wisdom to the younger generation.

Rose recalled that when the Sunshine Foundation was founded 26 years ago, there were no NGOs advocating for the promotion of health and general welfare of the elderly in Nigeria.

“When we started in 1992, there were no NGOs that were handling issues of the elderly but today you have a number of them showing concerns in this area. Now we have a number of people talking about the elderly and we accept this as an achievement for Sunshine Foundation because our activities so far have stimulated consciousness in an area that practically was hitherto neglected.”

While she identified funding as a major challenge facing the foundation, Odiete appreciated the efforts of those who have been supporting its programmes.

Three associations of elders joined the Sunshine Foundation during the Easter, which include Surulere Elders Forum, Care Organisation Welfare for the Aged People, and Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Lagos.

In his remark, chairman, Nigerian Union of Pensioners,  Comrade Sulaiman Muhammed, commended Sunshine Foundation for doing it best to take care of old people when the society seem to have nothing in place for them.

Comrade Muhammed called on the government to emulate the foundation and its initiatives to support retirees who have served the state in different capacities “but now are not getting any benefits from the government and the system they have served.”

He lamented government’s failure in paying the retirees regularly the “arrears of arrears” of ex-workers, stating that the there’s currently a backlog of at least 10 years arrears to be paid by the government.


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