Monday, June 3

Building a society of all ages: My Take Home from IFA International Workshop on Ageing and Age-friendly Environments

Now I am young, I carry the voices of the old with me, hoping that as I grow older, our societies, cities, laws, policies; communities will be age-friendly.

The world is ageing and it is ageing fast. With Africa to experience the fastest growing ageing population than any region, without having the chance of being rich, Prof Susanne Garon remarked to us all present at the  International Workshop on Ageing andAge-Friendly Environment, at Palais Des Congress, Yaoundé, Cameroon.

The workshop which began on May 27 – 28, organized by the International Federationon Ageing (IFA) and Friends of IFA (FOIFA) brought together over 500 delegates across all works of life; amongst them members of parliaments, government and civil society representatives; policy makers, academicians, journalists, heads of organizations – National and International, traditional elites and elders, from all six continents to critically looked at some four key areas on; Health and Wellbeing into Old Age; Elderly Abuse; Older Persons and Crisis Management and lastly Age-friendly Environments – as well as to seek better means towards addressing this current population trend.

I was however privileged to be one of the panelists’ speakers, presenting my views after Dr. Isabella Aboderin, a renowned expert in active ageing discourses, who highlighted a number of profound issues on age-based inequalities in sub-Saharan Africa, urging governments to invest in health care for ageing people, local elites to collaborate in promoting active ageing and researchers to produce evidence-based and solution-oriented works.

Personally, it was an honorary feeling for me – first to be part of Dr. Isabella’s panelists.  Secondly, to have spoken for the hundreds of ageing mothers in my community whose voices hardly get to the frontline. 

In addition, I felt like, I am being prepared for old age. Now that I am young, I am been mentored to not only promote young people’s agenda but as well the old such that by the time my generation is older,  discourses on age-friendly societies wouldn’t be new.
While writing this article, I could not stop reflecting on the panel discussions, participants’ questions as well as the statistics and projections from the facilitators at the workshop. One of which is the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA 2007)  that states that one of every ten people on the planet is now 60 years of age or older. And by 2050, one of five people will be above 60 years or older. The truth is – by that time, many youths of today will constitute the ageing population.

And when I look at the youth of today, whose livelihood is mark with – severe suffering, poverty, abuse, insecurity, violence, diseases, poor healthcare services, high levels of unemployment in spite the education obtained; I try to visualize what kind of life awaits us [young people] in future, if proper measures are not put in place.         

And as I ponder further, I recall Mme Nesta Hatendi, the regional director of Help Age International for East, Central, West Africa, remark on “Age-Friendly Environments” – where she drew our attention on toady’s politicians, world leaders, statesmen ageing status – and how in spite of the fact that many of these leaders are older adults, they lack the vision towards enhancing healthy and age-friendly environments.

 Again, I recollect, Dr. Omokaro remarks, of Dave Omokaro Foundation, pinpointing the fact that older people’s issues have not been streamlined into development agenda. And also, the fact that there is need for rigorous awareness to shift and change attitudes and behaviors to understand older people invaluable contribution to national growth; many of whom, particularly older mothers are becoming parents again when they should be retired. 

An allusion, Dr. Isabella had also noted with focus on aging population in Africa, 78% of whom remain economically active – she said: yet elderly adults’ rights to basic health are still viewed marginal. They remain invisible in terms of decision making.
So, my take home from the workshop was - as youth activists and leaders now, this is our chance to re-orientate our thoughts and as we call on governments attention on inclusiveness, and the need for sustainable development we remember to also emphasize on elderly people’s rights and their environments - friendly of all ages.