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22.04.2004 Regional News

Conference for the aged takes place

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Accra, April 22, GNA - Dr. K. B Asante, a retired diplomat and educationist on Thursday called on Ghanaians not to shirk their responsibility toward the aged, but rather make life meaningful for them.

He stated that since government alone could not shoulder the responsibilities of the aged, it was up to families, churches and civil society to be encouraged, to shoulder and fulfil their traditional responsibility of making the aged feel that they still were part of society and therefore belonged to it.

Mr Asante, who made the remarks at a National Conference for Ageing, organized by the Christian Action on Ageing in Africa (CAAA), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in Accra, however, called on government to speed up the passing of the law on Ageing. The Conference had as its theme: "The Problems of the Ageing and the Contributions of Older Adults to National Development."

He condemned the practice whereby the aged were neglected, yet when they died, " the funeral becomes a competitive feast of show and opulence."

" We should find ways of shamming families who ignore the living and lavish big ceremonies on the dead", he added.

He said in a country where records were difficult to come by, and went on re-inventing the wheel, the experience of the older adults was of great value, adding, " most of them are still keeping our universities and medical schools going, while others have been found useful in other areas."

He, however, noted that: " We do not need to listen to those old men who are fond of giving excellent but unnecessary advice to console themselves for being no longer in a position to set bad examples", adding, "we have a store house of knowledge and experience within the older community which can save us from a lot of errors and from unhelpful foreign advice."

Mr Asante said it was becoming extremely expensive to be old and tasked government to deal with the fundamental problem of old age.

Professor Alex Kwapong, Chairman of the Council of State, who chaired the function said the phenomenon of Ageing was a worldwide issue and must be addressed, especially in developing countries like Ghana.

He said global statistics indicated that the population of elderly people over 60 years of age had vastly expanded due to improved conditions and medical care.

Pro. Kwapong noted that there were 550 million older people in the world today, as against 200 million in 1950 representing an increase of 350 million, adding that the figure was expected to double to reach 1.2 million by the year 2025.

He noted that although many African governments felt proud to have eminent citizens in their midst, they were yet to develop policies and structures that guaranteed the right and well-being of the elderly.

The consequences of this, he said, included the frequent elderly, abuse, neglect. Poverty, starvation, social isolation, accusation of witchcraft, and premature death from incurable diseases.

Prof Kwapong said the message to the elderly should also be addressed to the youth who would soon take over, and commended the organizers of the conference, which was aimed at addressing the critical needs of the aged in the country.

Dr. Ayete-Nyampong, Director of CAAA, appealed to government to deal with fundamental issues on Ageing, and to strengthen existing facilities, while tasking families also to contribute their quota towards the upkeep of the aged.

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