Linking older people in the UK and Ethiopia
At the end of October, I was busy in my office in Addis Ababa finalising my preparations for a one-week visit to older people's institutions on the other side of the world.
The visit was organised by Alan Burnett and his wife Jenny to strengthen the twinning between Portsmouth Pensioners' Association (PPA) and the Ethiopian Elderly and Pensioners' Association (EEPNA). The aim was to share experiences of how active older people in UK are campaigning and also to build new relationships between UK and Ethiopian groups.
The next morning, I met Alan Burnett, the Chairperson of the PPA at Heathrow Airport in London. The weather was very cold compared to Ethiopia's thirteen months of sunshine year. I started to wonder whether I would be able to stay in London for a whole week, but over the next seven days the amazing people I met kept me warm. Indeed, seeing how empowered the Portsmouth Pensioners are made me totally forget the weather.
Straight off the plane, I joined a rally organised by the UK Pensioners Convention in London to defend universal bus passes and winter fuel allowances. The protest was undertaken in front of the UK Parliament.
I was astonished by the rally and subsequent meeting conducted in Parliament where pensioners so easily held discussions with Members of Parliament. I was expecting there to trouble for the organisers of the rally.
In the following days, I went to Portsmouth City Council where I met with the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and leaders of the council. They were very enthusiastic about the issues of older people. It was another astonishing experience for me to see that different political parties were working together.
Older people in Ethiopia
As I engaged in these experiences, I contemplated the older people of Ethiopia and thought about what they would demand if they managed to hold a meeting with government leaders.
They would demand food, water, shelter, clothing, healthcare, a pension and other basic necessities. Universal bus passes and winter fuel allowances would not make top priority for older people of my nation.
Attending the monthly meeting of the PPA in November, I met with a great deal of older people shared my experiences working with older people in Ethiopia with them. They were very pleased that their association was twinned with EEPNA and wanted to support further relationships between similar associations.
I was also privileged to take part in presenting the findings of scientific research on Ageing and Sleep Patterns. This was a wonderful experience and relevant to all older people, regardless of country.
Read more about our work supporting older people in Ethiopia.