I Dedicate Rest Of My Life To Cater For The Elderly – Oluwayemisi Oluwole | Independent Newspapers Limited
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I Dedicate Rest Of My Life To Cater For The Elderly – Oluwayemisi Oluwole

Oluwole
Posted: Apr 17, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

It appears most government policies and programmes focus more on the youth in the society partly because of the value they add to the economic growth of the country. But then, neglecting the elderly could be seen as a disservice to nature and humanity. In this interview with Oluwayemisi Oluwole, coordinator of Age Nigeria Foundation, an NGO that addresses the neglect of the elders in the society, she speaks with Independent’s Anthonia Duru on issues affecting aged in the society among others.

Enjoy it:

How and when did you get into advocacy for the aged?

I became the voice of the neglected older people in Nigeria due to the way they were deliberately looked down upon, neglected and left behind in Government programmes and policies. l got involved by providence in year 2007. l remember vividly a particular incident that drew my attention to the plight of older people. Before the encounter l have never seen a gathering of older people in my life until the day l accompanied a close family member who was an elderly woman with cataract eye ailment that needed to be corrected at Gbagada Hospital during Fashola’s tenure as governor of Lagos State. That will be the first time in my life l will see a huge number of older people gathered together for a healthcare programme. It was so sad that quite a number of them cannot be operated upon because there is no one to assist them in going through all the process of pre- surgery tests before the actual surgery. Some of the elderly wept openly, uncontrollably like baby because no one was there to help. l did try my best and assisted those l could but lots of them missed the opportunity, it was so sad. I discussed the incident with my mother and husband when l got home about my experience and now the rest is history with the establishment of our organisation. The elderly, who has helped built the infrastructure we now enjoy are now seen as economic burden and unproductive members of the society. The old women now experience violations of their right at family, community and institutional levels, inform of witchcraft accusations, physical abuse ,isolation, ageism, denial of access to healthcare, the list is endless. The elderly should be accorded their deserved respect because they brought this present generation to the world. They are store house of knowledge and still have a lot to contribute to nation building. Some older persons who are above 80 years are still sharp in the mind and more intelligent than youths of 35 years and they still want to enjoy his God’s given talent at latter life. Age Nigeria Foundation was formed in 2010 to care for the elderly in Nigeria.

What was the motivating factor?

The older people are store house of wisdom, putting smiles on their faces, seeing the elderly living a dignified and independent life. It gives me joy when l have programme for the older people in Nigeria. Just this penultimate Thursday, we organised a programmed tagged Age Demands Actions to create awareness on the plight of the elderly to mark United Nation World Health Day in different towns and cities of Lagos and Ogun State. The older people were the one on the street with big banners campaigning and creating awareness on the danger of diabetes in old age, testing for sugar level, engaged in series of lectures and games to mark the epoch making day in Nigeria. Age Demands Action is a global initiative and our older men and women were not left behind in the country. Similar activities for the older people are my motivating factors.

In this part of the world, many see it as an act of wickedness taking one’s aged mother or father to old people’s home. What are your thoughts about this?

To be honest with you, with my experience in caring for the older people, I personally believe in the concept of ‘Ageing in Place’ ageing in own home. This will sustain dignity in old age, care of senior citizens has to remain vested in the family. The family can partner with the community, government or NGOs on ageing for support for their aged parents if the need arise. We are Africans; most tribes in Nigeria especially the Ijebus and people from western part of the country love and desire to care for their parents when they are old. They believe there is blessing from above attached to those who do it dutifully. If there is an area where the rest of the world respects the African people, they are always amazed in spite of no feasible government programme for the older adults. Africans generally love, respect and care for their seniors unlike in Western world. Their own seniors are separated from their children and kept in old people’s homes and cares, who sometimes used to abuse them and serve them. However this attitude is fast changing among our people which is as a result of civilisation, rural-urban migration, problem of daughters in-law in Africa. Now we have old people’s homes, which is not part of our culture. It is more preferable to have ones parent in a functional and modern homes if it is expedient that they could not stay with their children probably for fear of being abused or neglected by family members. Old peoples’ homes mostly owned by government and individuals here are detention centres for the seniors because of dearth of basic facility and professional careers needed in those homes. To be candid, institutional care should be the last resort. For us in Age Nigeria Foundation, we do not have home for them now because of the huge capital involved but alternatively we have what we called Centers for Creative Ageing in Ogun State. The two centers we have for now serve as a place where the aged can meet their peers, share their experiences and pains, play some indoor games like draft and ayo olopon, and very soon we shall introduce Elderly Literacy Programmes where they can come and improve their learning ability and know how to use computers. l appeal to Nigerians let us make our homes and communities age friendly for us to get the best out of them.

What are some of the challenges you encountered in carrying out this task of fending and taking care of the elderly?

If we are to analyze the challenges, they are inexhaustible. If our foundation is based on children and youths programmes we would have achieved a lot because that is where the focus of our government and corporate organisatons are based. The corporate organisation wants to get the attention of the younger generation to meet their sales volume. We have funding problems; no one sees the need to encourage and assist the older people. Corporate companies that have big brands will tell you their CSR budgets are for the children and youths programmes. There should be conscience in CSRs in Nigeria. They perceive the older people as worthless in today’s fast –paced, globalised, and increasingly industrialised society. Government that should be more alive with her responsibility and collaborate with relevant NGOs has no time for them.

Any plan of having a home for the elderly by your organisation?

Yes, currently we have centers for the elderly which are like day care for the elderly. In the future we plan to have a modern center for the seniors where they will be able to live according to their desires and the expectation of their busy children who want the best care for their parents. It is a big centre that will have all facilities to make life at later life worthwhile without losing their independence.

Aside this, what else do you do for a living?

l am a business continuity planner, a consultant, a motivational speaker. Let me confess to you, the desire to care for more older people is taking more of my time than any assignment presently. We have cared for over 40,000 older adults and our target this year is to reach 100,000 this year. In the next five years, we want to reach out to one million older people in Nigeria. Presently we have over ten million older people in Nigeria. This shows that we still have a long way to go but with support of good spirited Nigeria, corporate organisations that have conscience and government, we shall put one million smiles on one million elderly in Nigeria.

What is your understand of gender equality?

Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation. Women and girls should not be discriminated against. The country belongs to all of us.

Can you tell us about your growing up days and some events that helped shape your life to be who you are presently?

l grew up like any other kid in Lagos; l was born in Lagos, from a strong old time pastoral family. Both my parents at a stage in their lives were General Overseers of a missionary church, Divine Tabernacle Gospel Church Mission. l was brought up with strong Christian principles in Olodi Apapa. My parents were disciplinarians but trained us with love and fear of God. l started the foundation with full support of my mother. She is resting with the Lord now with my father. They made me who l am today l am blessed with good happy family. I love music; l sing a lot and l play instruments like piano and base guitar.

What is your guiding principle in life?

To be steadfast with God principles and to continue to put smiles on the faces of the elderly.