The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has called for a national policy for the elderly in order to accord them proper respect.
He spoke on Wednesday while unveiling the Dagomo Foundation Ultra-modern Elderly Care Centre in Benin City, the state capital.
The centre was opened to mark the posthumous birthday of the late Grace Onaiwu Omoigui, mother of a former Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru.
It was built by the deceased’s husband and children to cater for a million elderly people.
Mr. Obaseki, who was accompanied by Head of Service of Edo State, Gladys Idahor and other top government officials, promised that the state government would partner with the foundation’s laudable activities before supporting the centre with N5 million on behalf of the government.
Recalling the painful death of the Omoigui family matriarch weeks ago, the governor said he had mixed-feelings because he did not know he was seeing her for the very last time when they met before then.
He, however, said he was not sad because the death called for celebration.
The governor, who donated N5 million to the centre, lauded the vision of the centre and called for a system of proper care for the elderly.
“Let us sit back to reflect about the elderly and the aged. We must continue to pursue our dreams even when we are no longer around. So, Dagomo Foundation is a foundation we will partner with,” he said.
Lamenting the unbefitting conditions of cemeteries in the state, Mr. Obaseki promised to consider the foundation’s request for land to build one.
He added, “We must redefine ourselves as a caring society. If we don’t begin to take care of our elderly, we will all be done for it.”
Mrs. Ifueko-Okauru, who described her mother as a heroine, urged Nigerians to assist government to facilitate improved care and support to the elderly.
She lamented the lack of policy for the elderly at both state and federal levels.
“Our dear mother, Grace Onaiwu Omoigui (aka Mama G), in whose honour we gather here today, completely exemplifies who a heroine is,” she said.
“She lived for justice, fairness, and equity and died in the pursuit of same. Today, we honour her for the why and how she lived. Amongst many of her notable achievements was her work and passion for the elderly.”
Mrs. Ifueko-Omoigui said the immediate goal of the centre was to make ageing a more enjoyable and dignified experience for at least one million people.
“As average life expectancy (currently 53 years) in Nigeria increases, we also believe a sustainable elderly services industry, which currently does not exist in a meaningful form, can contribute at least 1 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP.
“We do not have a national policy for the elderly either at state level or federal level. We need policies that will recognize how important these people are.”