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Older people are encouraged to use all accepted means to demand from government and policy-makers the implementation of promises made in their speeches, including that of the Freedom Pass in 2017, the Aged Bill and improving their health status which among others came out last Sunday at the Luncheon at the State House.
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Written By By Ebenezer Adjetey-Sorsey - Sunday, 1st July which is our Republic Day was additionally commemorated as Senior Citizens Day as has been the practice for over a decade now. This Day is intended to recognise and appreciate the contributions of our Senior Citizens, in our case older people, to the development of Ghana over the years.

This, judging from speeches delivered at the annual luncheon hosted by the President of the Republic for selected senior citizens offered the opportunity to outline plans and strategies aimed at improving the well-being of older people in the country. And last Sunday was no exception. Both the speeches of the Vice-President and the Sector Minister assured older people mainly on issues relating to the Aged Bill being passed into law and improving the health status of older people. In 2017, the President at a similar event also promised the institution of a Freedom Pass to ease the transportation challenges faced by older people. All these policy assurances, like previous ones are not out of place. The challenge has always been largely our commitment to pursue the very things we say in these speeches to make life at old age a comfortable one for the Ghanaian.

Observations over the years indicate that we have not been able to carry through these promises – it looks like an occasion for speech-writers to exhibit their skills in attracting clapping from guests at such public events. It was the expectation of observers and other stakeholders that the speech by the Vice-President and even the sector ministry (Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection) would update our Senior Citizens on progress made on the implementation of the Freedom Pass promised by the President in 2017. More promises were rather added to the existing ones yet to be realised. But what can we say – it is well and good.

Older people are encouraged to use all accepted means to demand from government and policy-makers the implementation of promises made in their speeches, including that of the Freedom Pass in 2017, the Aged Bill and improving their health status which among others came out last Sunday at the Luncheon at the State House. The 1992 Constitution made specific demands on the state in relation to improving the well-being of older people in the country. One can for example make reference to Articles 37 (2) (b) and 37 (6) (b) which demands from the state the protection and promotion of the rights of older people as well as the provision of social assistance to enable them maintain a decent standard of living. This means that we cannot continue to regard our older people as recipients of welfare only, but also as holders of rights like all other citizens.

Ramsey Clark, the former Attorney General of the United States of America puts it best - ‘A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you.’ The rights of older people, like the rights of all other people in society are guarantees to being treated by others based on moral, legal and ethical principles that are not dependent on where they live, their age, national or ethnic origin, sex, colour, religion, language or any other status.

We have a duty as a State to curb the rampant violation of the rights of older people in various forms including witchcraft accusation and its attendant physical and psychological abuses meted to them, especially older women. We must improve access to legal aid services by older victims of human rights violations. We need to encourage and facilitate the active participation of older people in decision-making on issues which impact on their well-being. We should stop treating them as a spent-force. Our healthcare services should stop describing the conditions of older people reported at health centres as “old age” due to the lack of specialized training in geriatrics for health workers.

“Old Age” is not a disease. The world is ageing at a faster rate, and the population of developing countries such as ours is ageing the fastest. In Ghana, the absolute numbers of older persons (60 years and above) has been increasing rapidly in recent times due mainly to improved healthcare which has translated into increasing life expectancy; the greatest beneficiaries being women who now enjoy above 63 years life expectancy. The population of older people in Ghana is now estimated to be about 7 per cent of the total population from as low as 5.3 per cent in the 1970s. The indicators are there in our Population and Housing Census Reports - increasing ratio of the elderly to children; increasing median age and life expectancy, among others.

We just need to take appropriate actions to address the issues that impact negatively on the well-being of our older persons. Doing it right now is doing it right for our own future. It is a duty to us and the present generation of older people.

By Ebenezer Adjetey-Sorsey, Executive Director, HelpAge Ghana.

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