Widowhood, ageing: As women struggle for self-sustenance, survival…

Widowhood and ageing are natural occurrences that are inevitable for married women and adults. However, many widows and aged women often complain of neglect and not getting adequate empowerment for survival, self-sustenance; PAUL OKAH reports.

Long life and good health are common wishes of birthday celebrants, but many Nigerians ironically frown upon perceived inconveniences of their older relatives whom they often accuse of witchcraft as a result of being senile, suffering from amnesia and hallucinations.

Old age is supposed to be a blessing as young people pray to grow to ripe old age, but in this part of Africa, older people are often un-cared for and neglected by their children and relatives.

Widows are often abandoned or even maltreated by in-laws and relatives in the event of the loss of their husbands, especially if they were seen as obstacles to getting to the husband when he was alive.

The case is even worse if the woman was a house-wife and was not working while the husband was alive, which often plunges families into grief as the young widow would be left alone to cater for the children left behind by the deceased husband.

Meanwhile, United Nations statistics project that by 2050, the number of people aged 60 and above will surpass 40 million in Nigeria, leading to increased demands for effective geriatric social care services for the aged, including widows.

Inadequate empowerment

Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a civil servant, Mrs. Rebecca Mmadu, said women are not getting enough empowerment and that widows are presently suffering as a result of the lack of planning.

She said, “The reason there are more widows than widowers is that men marry younger women in Africa and, hence, the women outlive their husbands. In every extended family, you must find one widow or the other, sometimes below 50 or even 40 years. Unfortunately, some of the widows you come across are struggling to make ends meet as a result of many factors.

“Some of the women, when they got married, were carried away by the euphoria of marriage and the fat salary or income of their husbands that working or setting up businesses never crossed their minds. In fact, many were told by their husbands not to work, that he earns enough to cater for the family, without the wife working. What is the reality today? Many of the men die suddenly, leaving the woman to suffer with their children, because there was no planning.

“Women are not getting enough empowerment from their husbands. As a husband, insist that your wife should work, learn a skill or set up a business for self-sustenance. You won’t be there forever. If your wife is empowered and she outlives you, your children will not suffer as she will cater for the family in your unfortunate absence. Of the truth, no one plans for death, but it can come at any time, that is why we have to be ready either as a man or woman.”

Planning for old age

Also, speaking with this reporter, an accountant, Mr. Joseph Dimeji, advised the aged to always plan ahead so that they won’t become burdens onto their children.

“In the economic tree, a man has many people depending on him. He is there for his wife, children, parents, and numerous relatives who would be making constant financial demands and expecting him to fulfil them if he can show himself approved. We call it hypo masculinity in social studies. Oftentimes, the man get carried away with financial pressures that he forgets to save for his old age.

“It is at old age that the man will start struggling to build a house or establish a business for himself or even start depending on others for his survival, which is what is seen in many Nigerian families. Therefore, I will advise Nigerians, especially men, to plan for their old age on time. Don’t get carried away trying to please people that you forget you will be on your own at old age.

“Even if you are a civil servant making money from unexpected quarters, start at this time to establish a business for yourself that will see you through your old age. There is nothing greater than independence as you will be proud of yourself to have a source of income, instead of expecting people to give you money before you can eat or pay your bills. Without being economically independent, you will suffer at your old age and it is a sad reality we are seeing in Nigeria today,” he said.

Pleasing children

Similarly, an economist, Bello Musa, advised the aged not to live their lives trying to please their children, instead of planning for their own lives.

He said, “It is quite unfortunate that many men and women focus on fulfilling all demands made by their children, instead of their also taking time off to check what they need for themselves and making plans for their old age. They get so carried away that they literally give up their happiness and lives for their children.

“The sad reality is that your daughter or son will grow up and set up his or her own family and will not be there for you forever. In this age of japa syndrome, many children will travel abroad and forget their older parents at home. I have seen multiple times of cases where many children don’t even come back to Nigeria when they hear that their parents have died. Some send money, while some don’t even send anything.

“So, it is wise as a mother or father to set apart funds to save to cater for your old age and not give up everything in the name of trying to please or train your children. This may not be a popular opinion because many Nigerians like being emotional than rational. It is also not selfishness, but being wise and realistic. I have seen a lot, but Nigerians never learn, so we keep making mistakes and passing on the blame to people when we start suffering in our old age either as widows, widows or aged people. Let’s learn from the mistakes of aged people as young people if we are to live a happy life.”

‘NSCC doing well to cater for older people’

In his view, a health system consultant and chief executive Officer of Prevy Empowerment Network, Dr. Felix Ogbonnia Oko Oyari, who retired at the University Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, said the National Senior Citizens Centre (NSCC) has put plans in place to ensure older persons are adequately catered for.

“Life after service for older persons is like we are just entering our dawn. Before now, there was nothing to write home about with regards to retiring from service. People died even before collecting their stipends or before government will pay them. People are thrown out of their houses after working and they don’t have a place to go. It is not a good story at all.

“However, with the coming of a committed NSCC director, the future is very bright. Standards are being set on how to accredit training institutions for caregivers. She has established Consultative Forum in the National Senior Citizens Centre to handle issues affecting the older people in different states across the federation. Federal and state university teaching hospitals have been selected for officials to build human capacity for care of older persons. Private individuals can hire the caregivers to work for them.

“This is because, in African, people don’t like to stay in old people’s home. They like to age in their central environment. That means, if you train caregivers, they can give communicate based care.

“On the older hand, the care and empowerment of widows, after the death of their husbands, is social security. It is beyond the scope of what NSCC is doing, but there are other agencies of government concerned with social security, like NAPTIP,” he said.

Geriatric initiatives

On May 15, the NSCC unveiled the geriatric social sector in Abuja; aimed at improving geriatric social care across the country and addressing the needs of Nigeria’s aging population, including widows.

Speaking at the event, the director-general of NSCC, Dr. Emem Omokaro, said the development is in line with the job creation, improved productivity, inclusion and equity priority pillars and deliverables by the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“Nigeria by this development aims to ensure that the care workforce has the knowledge, skills and competencies crucial to enable workers to practice older-person centered care, while also building a paid quality social care workforce to ensure reduction of negative stereotypes about care-giving to older people,” she said.