Wednesday, September 18

Avoiding the unavoidable: Truth is the world is ageing and it’s changing too!

@AFC_2013 in Quebec, Canada

Ageing is not something one can postpone. It’s inescapable.  So, needless giving deaf ears because we are all gradually ageing.

Like one Kenyan delegate told me last week while at the 2nd International Conference on Aging which held in Quebec, Canada: “ageing population is the fastest growing minority group”. 

The conference took place on September 9 -11 under the theme: “Living and Aging Together in Our Community”.  And over 700 international and national delegates across 50 countries were present. With more than 100 talks and lecturers, including simultaneous sessions held – all geared towards ‘fostering dialogue and collaborative efforts in advancing Age-Friendly Cities (AFC) programs and policies; as well as showcase AFC initiatives by sharing knowledge, programs, best practices, and tools’. 

Speakers at this conference came from diverse background – that is from donor agencies to International/ global networks working on ageing; Field researchers and /or academic institutions; national bodies, civil societies participants, government ministers and heads.  Also present at the conference were young people, youth leaders, elderly rights activists and individuals aged 60 years and older. 

Some remarkable individuals present include:  WHO director, John Beard, Minister of Health and Social Service, Minister  Responsible for Seniors, and Mayor of Quebec, Canada; renowned gerontologists and academics; Prof Alan Walker, Dr. Greg Shaw and Prof Susan Garon. 

While at the conference, having listened to both analysts and grassroots advocates share their thoughts and concern about the rapidly change in population trend and structure, particularly in Africa, Cameroon inclusive; how by 2050, persons aged 60 years or older, will surpasses the population of children 14 years or younger, and thus the need for a joint thinking and recommendations for common good.  I then asked myself series of questions- - 

  1.     what this mean to youth now 
  2.     Who should be responsible for making our communities and cities age-friendly? 
  3.    What the future will look like for us, young women in Africa, Cameroon especially.

When at present, we –young people lack the power of self-determination and are still suffering from multidimensional forms of poverty.  That is, the lack access to services, resources and facilities such as reliable and affordable healthcare, good education, descent job, finance.  With women and girls still subjugated to ancient traditional practices, inequalities, discrimination and several forms of violence and abuse.

Doesn’t  that mean, if nothing is done now – we, women risk of getting into old age still facing inequalities, discrimination, violence, abuse and poverty like most aged mothers now.

All the same, I won’t say that my pondering thoughts and worries went unanswered. Recalling Prof Alan’s keynote speech at the conference, emphasis was made on the need to effective address active ageing.  This, he suggested that “Active ageing should be the corner stone on any age-friendly policies. In order words, a synergy between active ageing and age-friendly policies – is for the good of all – young and old”, he added: “It all pushes for equality, secure livelihood, recognizes inclusiveness and respect of cultural and ethnic diversity”.

In all, the conference was inspiring, engaging, motivating and thought-provocative.  There were also some tough debates between experts and participants present.  I gained so much inspiration from people working on AFC programs – especially those in Russia, Brownsville, Burkina Faso – how they started young with little or no skills and resources yet were able to sustain their initiative till date. Many of which I observed also started like the program I launched last year -  MAKA MAMA VISIBLE honorary race to bring visibility to elderly mothers’ issues.  Again, I was also inspired with some of ongoing researchers on AFC in Quebec, India and Libya –

So far, I think my time spent at the 2nd International Conference on AFC in Quebec was fantastic – and been a young person and also a whistleblower on ageing and elderly rights, particularly elderly women – I found this conference super fascinating and inspiring. And above all motivations to continue in telling stories which inspire, motivate and empower young people serve as whistleblowers as well as to influence AFC programs and policies. Part of which I discussed in my paper – where I captured and narrated three remarkable elderly grassroots women’s stories at the conference – all working for the good of the community, particularly young people’s wellbeing. 

That notwithstanding, ageing issues remains a global problem.  It’s the unavoidable! Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to become age-friendly.