By Omini Oden (ACPA FCAI)
The United Nations General Assembly resolution 66/127 instituted the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) in December 2011. The resolution called on Governments and concerned actors to design and carry out more effective prevention strategies and stronger laws and policies to address all aspects of Elder Abuse.
It also appealed to state and non-state actors to work together to optimize living conditions of Older Persons and enable them to make the greatest possible contributions to stem Elder abuse and Ageism which correlates. While Ageism is the negative stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination against older persons on the bases of age, elder abuse is the singular or repeated actions or the lack of appropriate actions within a relationship of trust that cause distress and harm to older person.
Institutional ageism, thrives where older persons are excluded from development agenda and denied the benefits of health care, livelihoods and social programs, age friendly environment and opportunities for continuing engagements. Older persons and fall within the cracks of planning and implementation due to the lack of timely and reliable data on the population cohort thus opening the door to their vulnerability, poverty and abuse.
Like Ageism, elder abuse for older persons, is associated with a shorter lifespan, poorer physical and mental health, slower recovery from disability and cognitive decline. Ageism reduces older people’s quality of life, increases their social isolation and loneliness (both of which are associated with serious health problems), restricts their ability to express their sexuality and increase the risk of violence and abuse against older people:”
For very long, Nigeria had no policy or institutional mechanism on ageing; However, in response to the charge by the United Nations, Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari has recorded foundational landmarks, through putting in place a National Policy on Ageing, signed the National Senior Citizens Centre Act 2017 and established the National Senior Citizens Centre with a proviso in the Act urging the State government to domesticate the Act towards a coordinated approach to accelerated inclusion of senior citizens in national life.
Director General of the National Senior Citizens Centre, Dr. Emem Omokaro in a statement to mark the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2022 in Nigeria says, steps taken by the Nigerian Government are pointers to breaking of age long paradigms, myths and stereotypes which has compelled and propelled multi-sector mainstreaming and collaborations towards a new order of dignity, inclusion, participation, security and psychological wellbeing of Older Persons.
She said the approval of the National Policy on Ageing, the Development of the Strategic Roadmap and National Action plan on Ageing which programs are inputed in the 2921-2025 National Development Plan, have ushered a formal shift from the considerable lack of attention to older people’s challenges and needs and a lack of recognition of Older Persons rights to their inclusion in Sustainable Development Agenda.
Omokaro says the federal government ensured foundational Institutional frameworks which has boosted capacities for ageing mainstreaming, and its coordination, for addressing interpersonal and systemic discrimination, neglect, abuse and violence against older persons, and avenues for promoting access to health and social care, capacity enhancement opportunities for older workers, recreation, sports, programs for providing support for families caring for older persons are now in place.
On account of these steps, the Director General reiterates that, as an agency of the federal government, the National Senior Citizens Centre has within one year of its establishment initiated a number of flagship programs one of which is the; Anti-Elder Abuse Community Based Response Mechanism an initiative to stem the increasing reported and unreported incidents of Elder Abuse within families and communities.
In developing the model, the National Senior Citizens Centre worked within a Technical Working Group in partnership with the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, National Human Rights Commission, National Orientation Agency, NAPTIP and Civil Society Organizations as well as Communities and their Elders Council.
The model identifies the need for community members to be educated about issues of Elder Abuse including indicators. It mobilizes community members from different categories to act as reporting platforms, leveraging on NAPTIP’s structure, the elder abuse mechanism will involve the use of Area Council Protection Officers, Toll free lines and professional body partnerships.
It is on record already that the National Senior Citizens Centre partnership with National Agency for the Prohibition in Trafficking in Persons has mainstreamed Older Persons in the Prevention, Response, Rescue and Remedy in cases of Abuse.
The National Senior Citizens Centre leveraged on the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 which has enabled NAPTIP to expand its mandate to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence against persons and provided maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.
This will be achieved through utilization of NAPTIP’s existing statewide structures and the Mainstreaming of National Senior Citizens Centre’s Community Response Mechanism in ensuring that the abuse of Older Persons is quickly reported and dealt with expeditiously. This allows NSCC to deploy NAPTIP’S dedicated toll free lines to report cases of violence (07030000203, 0800-CALLNAPTIP) and for MTN 627 and *627#.
Other avenues include, Rapid Response Squad and NAPTIP’s Taskforce available in twenty-nine states of the Federation.
The National Senior Centre is rolling out its flag ship mobilization and sensitization advocacy program tagged Inclusive Nigeria Campaign against Ageism and Abuse of Senior Citizens. NSCC is also unveiling its National Senior Citizens Advancement programs through its Sector by Sector Network Support for Senior Citizens Road Show Initiative. Having set up Ageing Desks in 32 MDAs with trained offices for effective ageing programs mainstreaming and set up States Stakeholders in Ageing Consultative Forums in 27 States and the FCT with a National Consultative forum drawn from members of State Steering groups, NSCC is determined and is changing the narratives and ushering in the era of dignity, security, health and wellbeing and improved quality of life for senior citizens.
This year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) coincides with two important events; first is the start of the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030). This marks the beginning of ten years of concerted, catalytic and sustained collaboration with diverse stakeholders on improving the lives of older people, their families and their communities. Second is the 20th milestone of the Second World Assembly on Ageing and the fourth review and appraisal of the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA).
These provides an opportunity to generate renewed momentum for international action to advance the ageing agenda.
The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) comes up on 15th of June annually, officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 66/127, December 2011.
Omini Oden is the Head, Corporate Affairs, Media and Communication of the National Senior Citizens Centre (NSCC)