As the world marks the International Day of Older People (IDOP2019), HelpAge International and its network organisations have called for an end to all forms of ageism.
Described as prejudice or discrimination on the basis of one’s age, ageism manifests as biases against older people, often leading to negative self-perception of the individual older person.
According to Dr. Prafulla Mishra, Regional Director for HelpAge International- Africa, “governments around the African continent have begun to develop initiatives geared towards addressing root causes of ageism”.
He added that there are efforts across Africa to provide improved income for older people through various social protection measures, age-friendly health and care services that consider their issues and notably, policies that address discrimination and promote inclusion of older people.
For example, early this year, the Tanzanian Government launched the National Strategy to Eradicate killings of the Elderly Killings. In the semi-autonomous Island of Zanzibar, the President, Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein gave his commitment to increase the amount of social pension which currently stands at Tsh 20,000/=.
In Uganda, Kenya and other African countries, the governments have intensified plans to ratify the African Union Protocol on the rights of older persons that was adopted in Addis Ababa in 2016. Lesotho has already ratified the AU Protocol, the first and only country so far to do so.
While commending governments on their efforts in improving lives of the older people, Dr. Prafulla however noted with concern that older people still face a number of challenges that range from income poverty, lack of basic necessities, neglect, discrimination, violence and abuse.
Erastus Maina, Kenya Country Programme Coordinator, HelpAge International said ageism is deep-rooted in the Kenyan society.
“Older People are derogatorily referred to, called names and are being neglected. In many cases, they are denied employment opportunities. In cases where they are employed some companies pay them very low wages,” Maina added.
He said ageism has led older people to suffer abuse, neglect and denied their rights as human beings.
HelpAge International and its network throughout the country call for more efforts to restore respect and dignity for older people so that they can lead a healthy and dignified life.
“The society thinks that the brain stops functioning when one turns 60,” said Dr Edwin Mung’ong’o, a government retiree who now works for HelpAge as the Health and Care Programme Manager in Tanzania. That is far from the reality across the continent. Older People continue to support and contribute to families and societies as long as they can, such as, farmers, working in informal economies and passing on skills to younger generation. Regrettably, this contribution is not recognized adequately.
The theme for this year IDOP focuses on the concern for the promotion and realization of age equality being a key priority in the SDGs overall theme of `Leave no one behind.
According to the UN World Population Ageing report of 2019, almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. By 2050, 2 billion people, over 20 per cent of the world’s population, will be 60 or older. Estimated at 43 million in 2010, the population of older people in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to reach 67 million by 2025 and 163 million by 2050.
The increase in the number of older people will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, with Asia as the region with the largest number of older persons, and Africa facing the largest proportionate growth.
Maina however added that Human rights do not diminish with age. An older person has the right to live a life of dignity and respect just as much as any other person regardless of their age.
These drastic changes in the global populations call for nations to set policies, strategies and systems to carter for their growing demands and accommodate the challenges that come with the population ageing.