A lifetime of experience working on ageing
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Dr Mugo Gachuhi, one of the longest serving board members of HelpAge Kenya, having been on the board since 1999. We spoke about his experience working in the field of ageing and with older people.
His relationship with HelpAge started when he used to bring students studying gerontology to HelpAge Kenya for internships.
He worked for many years as the UNESCO Regional Population Communications Advisor for Africa where he assisted governments and NGOs to set up family planning and population programmes, including developing the draft that became the basis for the establishment of Kenya’s National Council for Population and Development (NCPD).
Policies on ageing must be implemented
He was involved in the drafting of the National Policy on Ageing and Older Persons in Kenya. Throughout his career, he has been deeply involved in research on older people and ageing.
Having been on the board for a number of years, Dr Mugo says he has seen the impact of HelpAge Kenya in highlighting the issues that older people face. One of Dr Mugo’s main points was that although a policy on ageing exists, it needs to be implemented.
“The HelpAge Kenya Board should keep pressurising the Government to implement the policy and also allocate more money to the Older Persons’ Cash Transfer Fund,” he told me.
The Government has set aside 4.9 billion shillings (GBP 33.3 million) in the 2014-2015 financial year for cash transfers for older people, leading Dr Mugo to acknowledge that “there have been positive changes over the years and the Government has done a lot for older people.”
Help older people help themselves
His personal philosophy is to see people assisted so that they are able to help themselves.
“Provide opportunities for older people to take care of themselves and not just wait for handouts. Older people need only to be given an opportunity to do something,” he added.
The community should be encouraged to look after older people, Dr Mugo said, lamenting that they are often abandoned by their children and society.
“People do not take care of older people anymore,” he said with regret. To counter this apathy, Dr Mugo commented that HelpAge Kenya has started community education in schools.
Educate young people so they understand ageing
“Children at school level should be educated about ageing so that they grow up respecting older people,” he suggested. He also said that the Department of Sociology at the Kenyatta University has a lot of materials on ageing and there should be complete degrees on ageing offered that will provide employment for graduates.
His final point was that older people should participate in programmes to improve their welfare at the community level.
“Older people should be consulted when coming up with programmes for them.”
Dr Mugo graduated from the State University College at Buffalo, USA with a BA in Social Sciences and holds an MEd degree in Sociology of Education and PhD in Sociology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary Graduate Certificate in Gerontology by Georgia State University Gerontology Center.
Find out more about HelpAge International's work in Kenya.