Monday, 1 October 2007

Need for effective policies and programmes for the elderly

Need for effective policies and programmes for the elderly
2007-10-01 08:41:07 By JOYCE BAZIRA

Today is the International Day for Older Persons whose theme focuses on need for countries to put in place good and effective policies for the elderly so as to improve the quality of life they are now leading.

The day, which was declared by United Nations General Assembly in 1990, is dedicated to honour, respect and care for the world�s elderly.

Our staff writer, focuses on this day and efforts being made worldwide to make sure that the elderly enjoy a decent life just like any other members of the society.

FOR the first time in history, the celebrations of the International Day for Older Persons, which is commemorated on October 1 every year, will today take a new turn when older people around the world unite to demand improvements in ageing policies and practices in their countries.

As part of this campaign, the first ever global coordinated action to bring about change, older people`s organizations and groups from more than 25 countries will meet their government representatives and present a memorandum which contains important issues which affect older people and therefore, need urgent interventions.

In Tanzania, HelpAge International Country Programme Director, Abdul Jetha, said a delegation of older people had planned to meet the Minister for Health and Social Welfare in Dar es Salaam while other delegations planned to meet District Commissioners for Magu and Shinyanga Rural in Lake zone.

In the memorandum, older people demand free access to government health facilities, backed by identity cards, establishment of a revolving fund at district level to facilitate livelihood schemes as well as older men and women being supported in their roles as carers for people living with HIV/AIDS and their orphaned grandchildren.

Also older people are calling for mainstreaming of ageing issues into district development plans and budgets and operationalisation of the National Ageing Policy of 2003.

In their statement, older people`s organizations in Tanzania urge the government to ensure that voices of older men and women are heard and represented in the development policies and practices, particularly in National Ageing Policy and the poverty alleviation strategy (MKUKUTA) of 2005.

According to Jetha, at the Second World Assembly on Ageing in April 2002, representatives of 159 governments including Tanzania signed the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) to respond to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing in the 21st century and promote the development of a society for all ages.

`That`s why HelpAge as an international organisation is launching a worldwide campaign to raise awareness of the unique problems faced by older people and to ensure governments meet the goals of the Madrid pact,` he says.

He adds that MIPAA calls for the inclusion of older people in the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

He says, `To achieve this objective, older people around the world are calling for a package of social pension, affordable health care and anti-discriminatory legislation and practice.`

Older people in Tanzania feel that the government, with support from international aid, where necessary, should establish universal non-contributory pensions and establish primary health care facilities which are accessible to all.

Enactment of legislation offering the most vulnerable older people effective physical security and protection of property rights should also be taken into account.

Besides, support of international donor community is necessary so that the government can provide social protection, offer older carers support to access the existing services.

Globally, older people are calling for recognition of their vital role in society and a package of universal non-contributory pensions, health care focused on the unique needs of older men and women and anti-discriminatory legislation for all older persons worldwide.

`Whether is a grandmother in Africa caring for her grandchildren after their parents have died of AIDS or a grandfather in India continuing to work to support his extended family, the vital role of older person is seriously underestimated by governments and others all around the world,` says Richard Blewitt, HelpAge International`s Chief Executive Officer.

Today there are around 600 million persons aged 60 years and above worldwide and this total is expected to double by 2025 and by 2050 the number is projected to rise to two billion whose majority would be in developing world.

Older people will increasingly play a critical role -through volunteer work, transmitting experience and knowledge, helping their families with caring responsibilities and increasing their participation in the paid labour force.

At the moment, older persons already make major contributions to the society.

For instance, throughout Africa and elsewhere millions of adult Aids patients are cared for at home by their parents.

At their deaths, orphaned children left behind (currently, 14 million under the age of 15 in African countries alone) are mainly looked after by their grandparents.

It is not only in developing countries that older persons� role in development is critical.

In Spain for example, caring for dependent and sick individuals (of all ages) is mostly done by older people (particularly older women)

Such contributions to development can only be ensured if older persons enjoy adequate levels of health, for which appropriate policies need to be in place.

So it is upon the government and all Tanzanians to support the efforts aimed at uplifting the standards of life of the elderly so that they manage to deliver their important roles without jeopardizing their health and well being.

SOURCE: Guardian

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