The World Health Organization has said that in African Region, more than 17 000 people aged over 55 years have lost their lives to COVID-19, accounting for over 50% of the COVID-19 deaths in the Region.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr
Matshidiso Moeti made the disclosure at the international day of older persons 2020 celebration.
The health body said it is working with 40 African countries to build capacity for the integrated care of older people.
“It is an approach that centres on community-based care, early detection and management of declines in physical and mental capacities, and supporting household caregivers.”
According to her, with the Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health 2016–2020, twenty-three African countries have multisectoral healthy ageing policies and strategic plans.
“We are increasing the focus on integrated, people-centred care in the African Region, to address the needs of different population subgroups, including older adults.”
The Regional Director said the country have a duty to support older people in realizing their human rights and live with dignity.
“Our elders provide us with love and care, and are a source of wisdom and talent, influencing who we are and who we aspire to be.”
This year’s theme is “Pandemics: do they change how we address age and ageing?” As we know that older people are at higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.
Moeti noted that we must all address the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on older people.
” We must all play a role in shielding our elders, including by practicing the preventive measures of wearing masks, keeping a physical distance, and frequently washing our hands.”
“Continuity of other essential services for older people is also important. Many African countries are offering multi-month prescriptions for people with chronic diseases to reduce the frequency of visits to health-care facilities.”
The Regional Director disclosed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, some retired health workers returned to work to protect their communities.
“With restrictions on movement and gathering, social isolation of older people is also a concern. We can contribute to addressing this by picking up the phone to call our senior relatives and offering to assist older people in our communities or keep them company. “
In recognition of the profound social and economic impacts of population ageing globally, 2020 has been designated as the start of the Decade of Healthy Ageing. “This is an opportunity to invest more in living long and healthy lives, to combat ageism and enhance the autonomy of older persons, including by building resilient health and social systems that incorporate the needs of older people.”
In Africa, people are living longer than ever before. There are around 54 million people aged over 60 years in sub-Saharan Africa, representing 5% of older adults worldwide. The population of older people in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to reach 67 million by 2025 and 163 million by 2050.
The International Day of Older Persons is an annual celebration of senior citizens around the world, and a chance to take stock of the opportunities and challenges related to population ageing towards ensuring societies are accommodating of all ages.