Stop TB Partnership

It is every generation’s affair to End Ageism and Tuberculosis Discrimination in Nigeria

Some surprising facts about Nigeria’s older population

Amazingly, the population of Nigeria, currently the seventh largest in the world, is growing very rapidly and is projected to surpass that of the United States by 2050. According to United Nations study, by 2050 the African country will become the third largest in the world, after China and India.

Nearly 63% of the population aged 60 and over currently resides in developing countries and this percentage will increase to nearly 73% over the next 25 years. Due to the increase in modern health facilities, Nigeria has seen a tremendous increase in life expectancy and a decline in infant deaths. Already in 2005, Nigeria ranked among the 30 countries with the highest number of people over 60 in the world. Today, Nigeria has the largest older population in Sub-Sahara Africa, with more than 8 million people aged 60 and over. People over 60 have now outnumbered children under five and by 2050, they will outnumber those under fifteen. Due to better medical care and liberal family planning, the elderly population is the fastest growing section of Nigerian society. Most government policies revolve around youth and children, leaving older persons under the sole care of their family members. This way, the ageing of the population in Nigeria is rapidly affecting families and societies in the country and the effects of these demographic changes can be harmful, if the government should fail to implement solid structures and policies on ageing.

Tuberculosis and older people

Older people in Nigeria are vulnerable to tuberculosis, especially those in rural communities and disaster-prone areas where healthcare is less available. They are also especially prone to extra-pulmonary and other atypical forms of disease that are difficult to diagnose. The older population should not be left behind in the diagnosis and treatment of TB and discrimination against older people that survive the disease should be addressed.

Age Nigeria Foundation is on the forefront of campaign against all forms of discrimination against older people. Older people, as the families who support them, face unique health risk like TB, HIV/AIDS and other, non-communicable diseases. Moreover in Nigeria, older people are often breadwinners or caretakers, supporting their families and dependents. The ravaging impacts of TB and HIV and rural and urban migration have greatly increased the number of older people having taken on the role of caretaker.

TB Partners and other organizations therefore should focus more on older people. At the moment, data are not adequately disaggregated. Sex and Age-disaggregated Data (SADD) and other valuable instruments should be deployed to properly address and analyze the needs of older people and improve the treatment of TB in older people. As is, older people are not visible in the statistics, but they are more vulnerable to develop TB. The majority of TB deaths occur among older people, yet they do not feature in the government plans for TB programmes. There is a considerable burden of undiagnosed tuberculosis among older adults in Nigeria and this is a reason for concern, hence the interaction on the issue during the IDOP and the need to get more insights from TB partners’ initiatives. Tuberculosis among older adults is set to be a serious threat to global tuberculosis control in the future, especially to the global goal of eradicating TB by 2030. TB care should not focus solely on children, inclusion of older adults in TB programs would raise awareness and pave the way for action. Future tuberculosis surveys should include a specific focus on older adults, while national tuberculosis programs should consider active case finding among older people and their inclusion in prevention strategies

Our new initiative will capture the relevance of older people in TB initiatives. We are mobilizing youths to support older people programmes and protect their right through our intergeneration solidarity. This approach is yielding massive result. Ironically, ageing and tuberculosis are also issues for the younger generation. The ‘youth bulge’ of today will lead to an ‘age bulge’ tomorrow. Age Nigeria Foundation believes that a better world for older people today will mean a better world for younger people too. Policies to support ageing with dignity and independence should be of serious concern to today’s young Nigerians. The youth will be the ones to benefit from them in the long run.

Our new initiative, Help Unite Great Generations in Nigeria (HUGGING), is one step we are taking to bring generations together. It will work with younger people to create awareness and give a voice to older people through a series of events, including drama workshops, music performances by popular artists, and television and radio programmes throughout the 36 states in Nigeria and Federal Capital Territory Abuja. HUGGING will be used to raise awareness on inclusion of older adults in tuberculosis treatment and prevention in Nigeria.

Many governments in Africa have support systems in place for older persons, such as social security, free medical care and universal pension for people aged 60 and above. Countries like Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Mauritius, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and others have mainstreamed older people programmes into their national policies, even if there remains room for improvement. South African national policies on older persons remain a model in sub- Sahara Africa.

Ironically, Nigeria, which is ranked among the top countries with an ageing population in the world, has no feasible policy or plan for older persons, apart from those captured in the pension scheme, leaving everyone else to carry their burden. The nation is still battling to produce a national framework that will be backed by law. The national policy on older persons is still a mirage in the country.

Campaigns for older persons’ rights and support for older persons

Over the past five years, through the Age Nigeria Foundation, we have been able to provide free medical treatment, free drugs, food and toiletries to over 50,000 vulnerable older people both in the urban and rural areas. With the support of HelpAge International we have been able to organize seminars, awareness campaigns, rallies and radio programmes on the rights of older people in the Lagos and Ogun States. We have also gradually been developing older campaigners, who will constantly engage the government at all levels to support and inculcate programs that are age-friendly.

By year 2020, we plan to reach one million vulnerable older persons who are living in extreme poverty in Nigeria, with projects that will have direct impact in their lives.

Taking a stand against ageism on the International Day of older persons on October 1st

Age Nigeria Foundation, in partnership with HelpAge International East-, West- and Central Africa organized a one week campaigns to mark the International Day of Older Persons in Nigeria

Age Nigeria Objectives for the one week event

  1. To create awareness of ageism in the communities
  2. To increase the visibility of order people’s lived experience
  3. To ensure older people know their rights and have the capacity to campaign and defend their rights

What is Ageism?

Ageism is the stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. Ageism can take many forms. It includes biased attitudes, discriminatory practices or institutional policies that prolong stereotypical beliefs.

The rights of older people do not decrease. In supporting older people to uphold their right, the abuse prevention programme follows the principles for older persons (1991) of United Nations. These include, Independence, Participation, Care and Self fulfillment in dignity.

Mrs Oluwayemisi Oluwole President/CEO of Age Nigeria Foundation delivered her lecture to older people in Ilara -Epe in the Lagos State and in Ogere-Remo in the Ogun State, Nigeria.

All-inclusive age demands action summits in Ilara Epe and Ogere Remo

We held, All-Inclusive summits with other invited organizations, such as Ilare-Epe Development Association, Divine Tabernacle Gospel Mission, Age Nigeria Volunteers, Ogere Natives and Centre for Creative Ageing and Research. At these summits, we worked deeply on the practical steps we can take to tackle ageism. Ageism, the theme for this year’s IDOP was fully discussed and analyzed, with a definition translated to local language for easier understanding by participants. We held three sections each during the summit in Ilara-Epe, Lagos State and Ogere-Remo, Ogun State. Older people came out with local positive proverbs to challenge ageism and resolved to continue with their conscious raising seminars that have empowered them to change ageist attitudes that encourage abuse. Government officials present promised to support the older campaigners with programmes that will empower them. Deaconess Tomiwa of Divine tabernacle Gospel Mission shared her personal experience on how discrimination has affected her and this motivated others to express their feelings about ageism. Two quotations from the elderly were especially pronounced and deep.

"I cannot speak freely or play with my friends, my children believe I am acting funny .They want to control my life at old age. I will not accept this because I have my right to be free with my friends" Mama Oniti, 67.

"If a woman stays married too long and becomes an older woman, she automatically becomes a witch. This is a proverb in my culture, this ageist quote must be stopped by us." Madam Olushola Anisere, 75.

The youth present at the ADA Summit learned about their roles and responsibilities for older people. It was an eye opener for them, as they confessed their level of ignorance. Nigeria is a country with huge youth population. More than half of the population are youth, 52 % of the total population. Nigeria’s older population is expected to rise from 4.5 % to 12.5% by the year 2025. We need to introduce human rights campaigns on older persons, led by the older persons themselves and aimed at youth and children. The ‘youth bulge’ of today will be the ‘age bulge’ of tomorrow. Age Nigeria Foundation always engages youth and children, along with their partner organizations in her campaign activities and care of older people in Nigeria.

At the All-inclusive Age Demand Action summit we have resolved to creating more intergenerational solidarity, through programmes that target older people, but with active participation from youth groups and children. The older people involved at the Summit were pleased to witness this solidarity among older and younger generations as this is rarely seen in Nigeria.