President of Geriatrics Association of Nigeria (GAN), Prof. Usman Ahmed has declared there only 7 geriatricians in Nigeria adding they are highly inadequate to take care of the over nine million aged persons in the country.
A Geriatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and disability in older adults.
Ahmed told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja that the population of older persons was growing exponentially, noting that Africa would bear more older persons by the year 2050 in spite of the high population of youths in the region.
According to him, there are over nine million older persons who are 60 years and above in Nigeria.
The GAN president said “Nigeria does not have adequate medical doctors or any type of healthcare professionals who can handle cases associated to old age.
“There are only seven of us, which is highly inadequate to the population of aged people in the country.”
He said that the biggest problems of older people were issues associated with hearing, vision, and dementia.
Usman, therefore, stressed the need for thousands of optometrists and audiologists to address the challenges, saying that statistics of seven geriatrics to the older population suggested a ratio of one geriatrician to over 900,000 aged persons.
He, therefore, appealed to government and other key stakeholders to build capacity of geriatrics in the country, adding that “you cannot have a healthcare system that caters for any group without having a healthcare system that caters for everyone.
“Nigeria should have a healthcare system where people would not incur out of pocket expense and become poorer before they could access quality services,’’ he said.
He explained that ageing was a process started even before the birth of a child.
He noted that if government attended to maternal health adequately, it was already solving some later issues of ageing.
“I am surprise that in this country when people reach the age of 60 years, they are not being provided health insurance by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
“The only respect and gratitude we could show for the elderly was to ensure that they had free and unhindered access to healthcare; free and unhindered access to better living arrangements.”
In this regard, Ahmed said, government and development partners needed to improve the livelihood for pensioners whether they worked in public sector, private or an informal sector.
He said “people should not be retiring and not having their pensions regularly as it happening throughout the country.’’
He said it was shameful that there was no concrete programme to cater for older people who have contributed to the development of the country.