World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, on the occasion of World Health Day (WHD) said that African governments should adopt good policies on ageing and health in order to facilitate the continued positive contribution by the elderly to the development process in the region.
The WHD 2012 was observed across the globe on Saturday April 7 under the theme: Ageing and Health and with the slogan- ‘Good health adds more life to years’.
Dr Sambo said “The elderly in Africa have always been revered as the source of wisdom and guardians of beneficial cultural practices, family unity and identity. They continue to play a pivotal role in the care and support of children. In return, the young and adults take care of the elderly as part of the African extended family. This reciprocal relationship of care and support between the elderly and young is a hallmark and should be promoted as a key component of achieving healthy ageing”.
Sambo also alluded to some of the challenges facing today’s senior citizens: migration of the youth abroad or to urban areas leaving the elderly alone in the rural areas; unpredictable weather patterns resulting in reduced food production and nutrition among vulnerable populations including children and the elderly; natural and man-made disasters which impact negatively on the health and well-being of the elderly as well as the risk of chronic diseases and disability for persons who live longer.
The Regional Director underscored that to address these and other challenges, there is need for Governments and communities to be more involved in promoting healthy ageing.
He also pointed out that the private sector had a role to play in “adding life to years” of the elderly by ensuring the availability, affordability and accessibility to products that improve the quality life of the elderly.
Ageing has become a major challenge in the 21st century because of the need to respond to an increasing demand for health services as the life expectancy of people around the world has continued to increase. According to WHO, the African Region has witnessed a rapidly increasing number of elderly persons aged 60 years and above since 1985.