The Nigerian government plans to establish regional geriatric centres at tertiary health institutions for clinical care and extend free healthcare services to Nigerians over the age of 60 years, in line with the declaration of the Plan of Action on Healthy Ageing by 2020.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who disclosed this on Wednesday at the first National Summit on Healthy Ageing, said it is in a bid to improve health care services for the aged in the country.
The theme of the summit was “Promoting the healthcare agenda of the present administration on vulnerable populations with focus on the aged”.
According to a press statement on Wednesday by the director, media and public relations at the Federal Ministry of Health, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, who represented the president at the summit, said the initiatives hoped to extend free medical services to people over the age of 60 years.
According to him, there would be a training of healthcare workforce through effective collaboration and technical support of international organisations. There would also be research on chronic diseases of the aged and community-based health-social support.
“We would ensure that resources and support are provided to enable us achieve the desired results. “We are aware that some states give free healthcare services to under fives and women, we hope to extend these services to people over the age of 60 years.
“We must make healthcare services available to our senior citizens as part of the government appreciation and social responsibility and a way of recognising their immense contributions to national development,” he added.
Mr Buhari also urged the Federal Ministry of Health to continue with the implementation of healthcare for the aged programme in addition to providing leadership in their works with states and development partners.
In Nigeria, access to healthcare for the aged can be a challenge. This is because the country does not have specialised health care services to cater for their needs. Aged people are susceptible to noncommunicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and cancer and most times they have to depend on their family for support, especially when seeking medical care.
Earlier in his remark, the minister, who was represented by the Director, Hospital Services at the ministry, Joseph Amedu, pointed out that the National Policy on Healthy Ageing was the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan African and it would serve as a policy model for the provision of healthcare to the aged in Africa.
Mr Adewole pledged that the policy would be integrated into the Universal Health Coverage strategy in order to achieve and sustain healthy aging among rural and urban geriatric population in Nigeria.
In his address, the Chairman, Nigeria Health Institution Chairmen Forum and Chairman, Governing Board of University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Sam Jaja, said the aim of the summit was to discuss the truth and beauty of healthy ageing, with emphasis on geriatric medicine.
Mr Jaja said Nigeria ranked 86th among 96 countries in the global age index 2015, which ranked countries by how well their older populations were faring. The index covers 91 percent of the world population of those aged 60 and above.