The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday urged Nigerian investors to explore the opportunities that abound in catering for the elderly by establishing homes and clinics for the aged. The WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr Rui Vaz, gave the advice in Abuja while answering questions from newsmen on the sideline of a two-day consultative meeting on Capacity Building for Masters Programme in Geriatrics Medicine in Selected Nigerian Universities.

“There can be private establishments which cater for older people; if you go to Europe at the moment, its big business. “People who have their pensions, who have got a bit of money, most of them live in homes because they cannot be catered for at home. “Also clinics – a clinic that specialises in elderly people would serve its purpose by making its services available for the elderly group. “It is not very apparent now but in future, we are seeing that we are growing older, we are staying longer and also the problems of the elderly will become more prominent when we deal with these preventable diseases. “Now we will have diseases – not like malaria or diarrhoea – but things like diabetes or heart failure or things like that that come in as we grow old.“

Rui, who was represented by Dr Andrew Mbewe, the Regional Adviser for Child and Adolescent Health and Development at WHO Regional Office for Africa, said that disease had become common among the aged. Earlier in her remarks, Dr Emem Omokaro, NUC’s LEAD Scholar, Ageing Studies Development, said that the ageing of a population was both a challenge and opportunity. Omokaro said that the essence of the capacity building was to build institutional capacity to manage the challenge of ageing.

She said that old age and issues relating to older persons should be seen as an industry worthy of exploration. She said that the event was part of the progressive picture that NUC had developed to build institutional capacity and to develop and train persons who would deliver the services. “Today we are making a major milestone because NUC has developed the Bench Mark Statement and Minimum Academic Standard for Post Graduate Diploma (PGD), Master of Science (M.Sc) and Ph.D in Applied Gerontology.

“NUC undertook intensive training of academic staff of 11 Nigerian universities in USA in Geriatrics and Applied Gerontology and these are the scholars, who will pioneer gastric education in their respective universities,“ she said. In his speech, NUC’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, said that the older population – people over 60 years and above – is growing at an accelerated rate globally. According to Okojie, in spite of the huge young population of Nigeria, the demographic trend shows increasing number of old persons.

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