Adorned in a flowery dress and accessorised with a neckpiece and hair tucked into a turban, Mrs Caroline Erochukwu, 73, looked as though she was relishing old age; unknown to many, she is homeless, roaming the street for the accommodation of any sort.
This was definitely not the life she hoped for in her old age, but reality and perhaps the unfulfilled promises that would have made things better now stare at her straight in the eye.
Mrs Erochukwu is one of the many elderly persons in the Alimosho local government area of Lagos State who have no roof over their heads but would have benefitted from the N505 million elderly care centre, a project initiated for construction in 2018.
With a thriving population estimated at over 20 million, Lagos has only one state-owned Elderly Care Centre located in Yaba.
Identifying this inadequacy, the former Commissioner of Youths and Social Development, Akinbile Uzamat, in 2017, during the tenure of Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, initiated the construction of elderly care centres in three local government areas in the state; Epe, Badagry and Alimosho Local Governments. The project was to be supervised by the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure.
Officials of the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency (PPA) confirmed that the contract was awarded to the contractor, Brink Construction Limited. UDEME could not ascertain how much has been released so far.
When UDEME visited Alimosho, a local government tour gave no hint of the project. This was later confirmed by community members, who said there is no elderly care centre in the location.
“There is no elderly care centre here; we only have a primary healthcare centre,” a resident, who identified himself as Gbolahan, said.
Workers at the Alimosho Local Government also confirmed the non-existence.
Road to homelessness
Mrs Erochukwu was not always homeless, and she would not have been aware of the absence of the elderly care centre if the explosion in Abule-Ado occurred in March 2020 had not occurred.
Mrs Erochukwu, a widow, lost her rented apartment along with all her properties. As a victim of circumstance, she now goes around begging for accommodation, sometimes from her daughter, who is sometimes not very receptive to her.
“Sometimes dey go gree make I stay, sometimes dey go shout ‘na only me you born?’ Na so I dey waka up and down,” she said, adding that some of the properties she has were given to her by outsiders, including the dress she had on.
Mrs Erochukwu, wishing that a care centre would be built for her likes, said, “I go go. I dey 73, you go tell me say make I no go? Na so begi begi mama dey do,” emphasising how much of help the centre would have been to people like her if it was built.
Why the project is non-existent
An employee of the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development, who sought anonymity based on not being authorised to speak to the media, said the project is yet to begin due to the lack of adequate land.
He said similar centres at Epe and Badagry had begun however that of Alimosho had not because the land reserved by the Ministry for the construction at Lateef Jakande Estate ‘would not be enough.’
“Six plots of land is needed for the construction, and only two plots were available,” he said.
He, however, could not tell when the construction would start.
Another staff of the Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, privy to the details of the project but not permitted to speak to the media, said the project is yet to be implemented because ‘it is still a proposal ‘ and they are yet to get a site.
A sympathiser of Mrs Erochukwu and others in similar situations, Aina Alice, told UDEME that a care centre for the elderly would have prevented many travails.
A similar perspective is held by Moscow Udu, a middle-aged phone accessories seller who pays for his mother to reside in a private healthcare centre. A financial burden he was neither ready nor capable of sustaining.
Community hospital burdened
Hospitals in the area now carry the weight of the problem since most of them house the old and the elderly in the community.
Doctor Regbekai Bukola, a principal medical officer at Alimosho General Hospital, noted that the hospital is affected by the absence of a centre in the area.
“It has led to a lot of congestion,” she said. “On many occasions, we have a large number of elderly people. In fact, there was a time we had all our wards full of elderly people.
“They are not easy to manage, so we have to keep them here for a long time, and so the people that are in need are not taken.”
Lilian Sule-Jiringho, founder of the Centre for Happy Elderly People (CHEP), a non-governmental elderly care centre located at Oshodi-Isolo LGA, noted that the lack of an elderly care centre in a community leads to an increase in abuse of the elderly.
“These persons are disengaged from society because their families are trying to keep them safe. They lock them in the house. That brings loneliness, and that is a form of elderly abuse,” she stated.
Her stance is corroborated by global reality.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in six people, 60 years or older, experience some form of abuse yearly. During the lockdown over the pandemic, there was an increase in elderly abuse since many countries are experiencing a rapidly ageing population. But even with the rise in numbers, only four per cent of these elderly abuses are even reported.
Also, a report obtained from the United Nations outlines that elderly abuse is expected to increase as the number of elderly persons continues to see substantial growth, especially in developing countries.
“Even if they build, I will not go.”
Unlike Mrs Erochukwu, who still remains hopeful for the centre, other elderly citizens, though in need, insist they would not go to a care centre even when it is built.
Sule Rasheed, a roadside beggar who claimed to have been abandoned by his sons, lives in neighbouring Ogun State. He said although he does not like doing it, he would instead beg than live in a care home.
“Me, I no like that place, the people no dey give food well well. If I no see work, I go dey here unless (till) the day I die,” he resolutely stated.
His resolve was informed by horrible stories a friend told him of abuse of elderlies in a care home in Kogi State.
A similar position was held by Idowu Christian, a herbal medicine trader, “I will not go, me I will not go in Jesus name,” he said.
Tags: Lagos State, elderly care homes, homeless, Alimosho
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