Parliament must speedily pass the Social Protection and the Aged Persons bills into law to give proper care and social services to the aged in the country, former President Mahama has stated.
He further called on the government to be “sensitive” to the plight of the aged by putting in place effective measures to avoid passing on expensive healthcare bills to the aged who are mostly affected by life-threatening diseases
“Our population is ageing, and better health care should become a high priority with ageing,” he stressed.
The former President made the call when he delivered the keynote address at the First Ghana Ageing Conference and Commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons in Accra.
The event was on the theme: “Fulfilling the Promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Older Persons: Across Generations”.
It was organised by the Los Abuelos Foundation (LAF) in collaboration with the University of Cape Coast.
Mr Mahama also advocated for the establishment of an independent emoluments commission to determine the salaries of every public sector worker from the lowest to the highest in rank to ensure equity, inclusion and fairness.
That, he said, was to forestall the challenges that senior citizens went through regarding the receipt of low monthly pensions, which, he said, eventually did not ensure their adequate well-being in the society.
“We must ensure that the aged receive their returns on their investments, and they must have no cause to worry about their social security and their pensions. To help improve on the economic and well-being of the older people, we must ensure their financial inclusion by facilitating easy access to micro finance services,” he further advised.
Government bonds, proposals
“All over the world, government bonds were supposed to be the safest investments that anyone could make.
However, the trust the pensioners had when they put their small funds into government bonds had rather not paid off, and today, they are suffering,” Mr Mahama said.
He said ahead of the 2020 elections, he made a number of proposals aimed at improving the general welfare of the elderly in the country.
One of the proposals, Mr Mahama said, was the establishment of a centre of excellence for training social workers to care for the elderly.
He also called for the re-introduction of the celebration of the Senior Citizens Day on Republic Day, with the day declared as a holiday to honour the aged.
He pledged that a National Democratic Congress government would collaborate with the Veterans Association of Ghana and the Ghana Government Pensioners Association (GGPA) to reintroduce the bank and elderly welfare card to enable people above 60 years to have priority access to social services.
Mr Mahama stated that the card would enable the aged to have discount bus fares and receive priority services at the banks.
Other proposals the former President suggested were the amendment of the National Health Insurance Act to exempt all persons aged 60 years and above from paying the NHIS premium; establishment of day care centres for recreational purposes for the aged; and introduction of a senior citizen tourism programme to allow them to visit interesting domestic tourist sites that they did not have the opportunity to visit during their working lives.
The Founder and Chairman of the Lepers Aid Committee, Father Andrew Campbell, suggested the setting up of a special department for the aged.
He stressed the need for the NHIS to cover 100 per cent medical care for the aged, including admission, consultation, medicine and administrative costs.
“Special rates for the elderly for utility bills, free public transport and food subsidy in the market for the aged.
There should be meals on wheels programme, care nurses who visit the elderly daily, day care centres, formation of grandparents association, subsidising permanent homes for the aged and increasing leap subsidy to GH¢₵200,” he added.
“Hospitals should have ramps instead of long stairways; lifts should always be working, and there should be specialised doctors and nurses who are trained in gerontology,” Fr Campbell advocated.
The National Secretary of the GGPA, Joe Quist, called on the Department of Social Welfare to set up homes for the aged, and to resolve disparities in the salary structure to ensure that pensioners were paid decent pensions, stressing that “some take home as low as GH¢40”.
He said senior citizens should also be exempted from the payment of water and electricity bills, and be provided subsidies to avoid paying transportation fares and hospital bills.
The Chief Executive Officer of LAF, Eunice Abban Afari, in a speech read on her behalf by the Co-founder and Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Rev. Samuel Young Nyanza, urged the nation to support the aged in a number of ways to ensure their total well-being.
Those ways, he said, included promoting healthcare and economic security, social inclusion, education and lifelong learning; prevention of abuse of the elderly, as well as legal protection and access to information and technology.