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What has age got to do with it?

20 Oct 2011

My research will hopefully change attitudes towards older people in Africa.In the course of my doctoral research on older people in Africa here in the UK, I am constantly asked why I have chosen this less trodden path? Have I been divinely inspired in some way or is it personal? 

People ask: "Why would a 'young' woman such as me decide to devote her life and resources to researching the living conditions of older people in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa?"

Or sometimes the question is: "Why not focus on something 'fashionable' such as child poverty, gender, health and nutrition?".

As I continue my research on Nigeria - a country where existing systems seem to hinder rather than help - I feel an increasingly strong responsibility to give a "voice" to the cries of vulnerable older people.

Evidence needed to change attitudes

In fact, a recent conversation on older people with an acquaintance (who embarrassingly happens to be Nigerian), has again reminded me of the reasons why I have chosen this path.

His words were: "Those that cannot provide for society should die".

His level of ignorance aside, I should thank him for unwittingly providing me with the strength to forge ahead against the odds. 

As I further pondered on his alarming words, I believe that only when valid evidence is presented can there be a shift in attitude towards older people in Nigeria and other parts of the world. 

I hope to help bring this change about through my work. 

Your comments

Otim Jonathan

Truely you have chosen the right area for research, the old are left un attended to in most African countries including Uganda were we are trying a community level to sensities the population on care and support for old age persons and trying to build hope in them through regular visits and offering supports with domestic cores.

Olumide Adisa

Hi Otim, thanks for your comment. I would love to hear more about your scheme. What's it called?

Andrew Emmanuel

I commend you for your selflessness in choosing such a subject area that's considered by many in Africa to be unglamorous and financially unprofitable. Pure altruism, if you ask me. When the rest of the developed world appreciate, and cater for, their older population, who have contributed their share to the development of their countries and sacrificed their youths for the peace we all enjoy today, we in Africa are losing the social capital engendered by our traditional communal living practices and showing complete disregard for our older people. The timing of your research couldn't have been more apt - given Nigeria's grandiose 2020 vision of becoming a top 20 developed country in the world! Keep it up and I hope the findings will spur our policy-makers on to make the right policy and investment decisions to address the issues of this undervalued group. Good luck!

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Olumide Adisa
Job title: Researcher

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.