Accra, Nov. 24, GNA - HelpAge Ghana (HAG), a non-governmental organisation on ageing, on Thursday urged the media to develop interest in issues concerning the old and to give it more coverage. "If you highlight issues affecting the elderly in our society and it is rectified, you are equally planning for your old age as well," Mr Ebenezer Adjetey-Sorsey, Executive Director of HAG said. He was speaking at a day's capacity workshop organised for media practitioners in Accra to equip them with the necessary tools for effective reportage on issues affecting the aged.
Mr Adjetey-Sorsey said ageing had become an issue, which required serious attention because older persons were gradually becoming a demographic force to reckon with in Ghana.
He said the number of older persons of 60 years and above in Ghana had increased from 381,000 in 1970 to 1,380,582 in 2000.
This rapid increase, he said, was a challenge waiting to transform itself into a problem in future, if left unattended to. He said Ghana had no chronological definition of her old people and various programmes and documents, which could be assumed to target older people also had different age definitions.
Mr Adjetey-Sorsey cited the pension scheme, which pegged compulsory retirement age at 60 while Free Basic Medical Care covered only those at 70 years and above.
"The National Health Insurance Scheme exempted 60 years and above for SSNIT pensioners and 70 years and above for all others to enjoy exemption from the payment of the minimum premium," he said. He said the 2000 Census Report also classified the elderly as those between 64 years and above, indicating that all these documents had different age definitions for the elderly, which discriminated against them.
The Executive Secretary said to date there was no specialised Medical Doctors in geriatrics, thereby leaving the old people at the mercy of general medical practitioners, who did not have the patience for them.
"The nation is behaving as if old age has nothing to offer to the development of the country," he said, and urged all those who mattered to come on board to make old age comfortable for senior citizens. "He who does not honour age does not deserve age," he said.
Mr Edward Ameyibor, Vice President of HAG, advised journalists to specialise in reporting on the aged and do more research and follow-ups on issues affecting old age and bring them to the limelight for prompt action.
He said the issues of the aged should be a force to reckon with in terms of elections because they formed more than eight per cent of the national population. He said in the United States of America and Europe issues concerning the aged were a main factor to win votes and cited the Presidential debate between President George Bush and John Kerry on the Vietnam War Veterans as an example. Mr Ameyibor, therefore, urged the Government to facilitate the passing of the National Ageing Policy Bill sent to Parliament in 2003 to make life comfortable for old persons.