By Michael Woira
I have noted with concern that the issue of the elderly has not been given the attention and priority in Government that should be expected ever since the overthrow of Hon. Suleiman Madada who had done a very good job in the elderly sector.
Globally, the number of older persons is expected to double, from 841 million in 2017/18 to over 2 billion by 2050, during which time it will have exceeded that of children below 14 years. At present there are 875,382 persons above 64 years old with 356,073 being males and 518,886 females and by 2030 this is expected to have risen by 5 ½ million. The elderly command a large proportion of the population’s wealth and increasingly seemingly the victims of an unstoppable wave of financial abuse.
The present arrangements whereby the Government minister responsible for our older population is nowhere to be seen in this cabinet makes me wonder whether some other sectors of government are left out from the usual Hakuna Mchezo business, personally I call this not being represented yet the constitution clearly states that such groups of people must be represented.
Thinking loud, I propose this ministry that has been existing for years but got lost and people stopped thinking it still exists during this term of 2016-2023 should be responsible for the following Adult social care, Autism, Integration, Older people, Physical and learning disabilities. Indeed People With Disabilities (PWDs) and the elderly have missed a lot in this cabinet kindly because they don’t have any representative who can present facts to the cabinet.
We have commissioners for the police & crime, information commissioners, and several other commissioners and seriously as a country we at the very least need a Commissioner for the Elderly speaking up for them and overseeing policy especially at this moment when the country is not having a representative to speak on their behalf. There is no voice at present and no one taking an overview on what the different agencies are doing and what they should be doing in relation to the issues of these vulnerable people.
To be somehow evident, in New Zealand there is a Minister for seniors. Her office is an information source for the elderly and their careers but also has a role in helping government and communities keep up to date with the needs of seniors. Her work includes the following: Positive Ageing, Age friendly communities, Social isolation, The Business of Ageing, Elder Abuse and Neglect and many other roles that are in her docket but all in a bid to make sure elders are considered as useful people in their communities.
New Zealand aside, in the US, there is the Administration on Ageing which is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services designed to carry out the provisions of the Older Americans Act 1965. It also states that it “promotes the well-being of older individuals by providing services and programs designed to help them live independently in their homes and communities. The Act also empowers the federal government to distribute funds to the states for supportive services for individuals over the age of 60.”
Many other countries have now recognized the economic and cultural value of their elderly populations. It seems so short sighted that this and earlier governments again miss the opportunity to co-ordinate policy and provide a voice in Government for such a key part of the population.
By comparison we have a minister responsible for children and youth under the ministry of Gender and is responsible for issues concerning children and the youth so if the children and youth are represented then we should also look at the elders as fit to have a representative for their services like SAGE to run smoothly.
The writer is a patriotic Ugandan