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NGO urges government to take policy decisions on improving welfare of older persons

By John Akubo, Abuja
18 January 2023   |   3:07 pm
A group under the aegis of Greenlight Initiative has urged the Federal Government to understand that they need to start planning and incorporating decision that will further benefit and protect the lives of older persons. This is coming against the background that the initiative embarked on a 12-month research study on Mobility, Transport, and Ageing…

A group under the aegis of Greenlight Initiative has urged the Federal Government to understand that they need to start planning and incorporating decision that will further benefit and protect the lives of older persons.

This is coming against the background that the initiative embarked on a 12-month research study on Mobility, Transport, and Ageing in Low and Middle-Income Countries with emphasis in Nigeria and Uganda.

The Initiative which is non-profit organization that promotes good health and wellbeing; safe and sustainable transportation partnered with the Federal University of Technology Owerri and Makerere University, to execute the 12-month study.

According to the executive Director of the Initiative Mr Simon Obi the study became imminent as available evidence suggested that not much work had been done regarding the mobility needs and safety of older persons which should compel urban developers and transport planners to put key and special consideration during designs.

“Inclusive mobility is an important initiative to directly consider in the initial stages of designing and developing mobility services.

According to Mr Obi the twelve-month in-depth research was painstaking with a series of interviews, surveys within the two countries.

“After a 12 months in-depth research study of the mobility pattern of the older people, GreenLight Initiative together with its organised a dissemination workshop for key stakeholders to review the research outcome.

“The research activities examined current transport preferences and policies affecting the mobility of the older persons and how they impact on, and are impacted by different factors, and took a broad, multidisciplinary view of these links.

“One thing we often say is that a lot of persons are too busy doing business in other fields of endeavour forgetting that they will get old one day This is one very important sector that is often neglected in society.

“That is the rationale for us going into this research project. So in terms of policy, our research has shown that there are no much policies that support the right of older persons in the country.

“We all will get old one day. And we need to prepare for the future, and so there is need first, for government to rise to this challenge. Government must understand that they need to start planning and incorporating decision that will further benefit and protect the lives of older persons.

He also harped on the need for government to be bold enough to start investing in infrastructure that supports the rights of older persons “because our road designs, what we saw in these two countries indicated they do not support the right of the older persons.’

“So the government needs to invest in infrastructure, they also need to provide the enabling environment for these category of persons to thrive to make a meaningful life.

He said the lack of policies and lack of infrastructure are definitely affecting the older persons in Nigeria. “We don’t have structures and infrastructure that supports their wellbeing in our cities.

“The government has to come in and do something urgently because this is an emergency situation. We are losing our older persons and we all will get old one day.

He said the focus on Nigeria and Uganda drew from the fact that in low and middle income countries such as our country and Uganda, these things are not talked about.

According to him, other developed climes, have infrastructural things that support the older persons.

“The mobility system supports them. They have a community transportation system that supports the older persons. But in Africa especially Nigeria and Uganda, there are no policies and there are no transportation network that supports them.”

Obi explained that the dissemination symposium underscored their priority to not only promote safe and sustainable transportation but also inclusivity in mobility.

“It is my belief that this study would improve knowledge and further assist policymakers, advocates, and transport stakeholders to make evidence-based decisions regarding mobility and access for older persons.

“We continue to thank Volvo Research and Educational Foundation (VREF) for its generous support which allows us to embark on this very important but often neglected area.

According to Dr. Chinebuli Uzondu, a Researcher/Lecturer from the Federal University of Technology Owerri: “It was such a pleasant surprise. I am so thrilled and honoured that we were announced as recipients of a grant from the Volvo Research and Educational Foundation (VREF).

“This grant has enabled us to work on a very important, yet often neglected issue. Our research has explored the mobility needs of older persons in Nigeria and Uganda, to understand their travel patterns, unravelled their travel patterns, transport options available to them, needs and barriers to active mobility.

“We identified country-specific challenges and have presented evidence-based strategies and recommendations to address and improve the condition.

“This research is very important to me because I feel that VREF acknowledges the importance of this research and how it will go on to address the issues around transport inequities and exclusions.

According to Dr. Paul I. Mukwaya, a Senior Lecturer from the Department of Geography, Geo-informatics and Climatic Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda: “For Makerere University, the grant is one of those which has opened up new opportunities, locally and internationally, as we build for the future. Most importantly the research has brought to the fore; not only, the kind of transport inequalities that older persons experience to be more specific, but also the transport policy gaps that exist at city and/or national scale.

“We have been able to network with a number of national actors and a conversation on critical transport inequality issues across Kampala City.”