Old age may come with some health-related issues however if a person becomes old, poor, and physically challenged at the same time, the situation could be extremely challenging and heart rending. Sadly, that is the story of some aged persons in the country. A typical example is 62-year-old Samuel Appawh, a palm wine seller at Asene Manso Akroso in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
Mr Appawh who used to work as a trader in Accra, when he was younger, returned to his hometown after falling ill and losing his left leg to the ailment. During a visit by the Ghanaian Times to his home over the weekend, he said he could not recall his diagnosis but was sure it was not diabetes.
Life, he said had been very difficult for him since he could no longer make ends as he used to. His only means of livelihood now is the palm wine which he sold at GH¢1.50 pesewas a bottle. From the proceeds he makes out of the palm wine business, Mr Appawh is supposed to buy food, settle electricity bills and other necessities at home. The proceeds, he said, were woefully inadequate.
“I buy the gallon of palm wine at GH¢ 75.00 and sometimes use a week to sell and make profit of 35.00 or less. This amount is what I must manage until I make more sales.
“It is not enough but that is my reality and I must accept it and move on with my life instead of wallowing in sorrow. I am even better off than some of my friends around here who are old, physically challenged, and jobless. It is a very sad situation for all of us so government must come to our aid,” he lamented.
When asked about his children, the divorcee stated that he was a father of five children who were also struggling to make ends meet and could not afford to take care of all his needs.
Describing his condition as heartbreaking, Mr Appawh who has been divorced for 15 years now indicated that his only hope now was God, adding that he would not even attempt to get himself a wife because he could not afford to take care of a woman.
‘I know the relevance of companionship, I feel lonely sometimes however since I found myself in this situation, I have never thought of finding a wife, not even in my wildest imagination because I can barely afford two meals in a day so why should I bring in a woman to come and share in my suffering, it would not be fair on my side at all. I am better off alone.”
“I only thank God that I do not have any medical condition that requires that I take certain medications daily because if that were the case, I would not be able to afford it. I would even be dead by now,” he added.
GHANA STATISTICAL SERVICE (GSS) DATA ON IMPOVERISHED ELDERLY PERSONS
The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) reveals that the elderly population (60 years and older) has increased almost 10 times in the past six decades from a little over 200,000 in 1960 to almost two million in 2021. The elderly population comprises 861,830 males and 1,129,906 females.
The report further indicates that 341,960 elderly persons are living alone with 62,480 out of that number being 80 years and older. The findings also indicate that one out of every four elderly persons is multidimensionally poor.
The report further revealed that nine out of every 10 employed elderly persons work in the private informal sector with eight out of every 10 being self-employed without employees, adding that nationally, 395,693 older persons representing over half 53.2 per cent of the employed elderly population are in vulnerable employment.
According to the GSS, the increasing aging population calls for an assessment of Ghana’s preparedness to safeguard the well-being of the growing numbers of older persons in the country.
HOW THE SOCIAL SECURITY AND NATIONAL INSURANCE TRUST (SSNIT) IS HELPING REVERSE SUCH TRENDS
SSNIT has in recent years focused on increasing awareness about the need for workers in the informal sector to take development interest in securing their retirement.
According to SSNIT enrolling such persons unto the scheme will help them become self-reliant during their old age, thereby helping reduce poverty among the aged in the country.
It was for this reason that the insurance firm launched the Self-Employed Enrolment Drive (SEED) campaign, which aims to provide a reliable source of income for workers during retirement or periods of inactivity.
SEED, a re-packaging version of the Tier 1 offering, extends a chance to self-employed individuals and those working in the informal sector to gain access to social security benefits. By becoming part of this programme, they can safeguard their future and experience the reassurance that comes with financial security.
SEED’s advantages encompass financial assistance for retirement or in case of permanent disability, as well as a life insurance plan that disburses a lump-sum payment to beneficiaries should the contributor pass away. These benefits are calculated based on an individual’s contributions to SSNIT over the course of their lifetime.
Although the informal sector comprises a substantial share of the economy, with 6.7 million self-employed individuals, only 34,000 active contributors from this sector are enrolled in SSNIT.
SSNIT continues to reiterate its commitment to reducing this gap by proactively involving the informal sector through community outreach efforts.
Such efforts will undoubtedly help curb situations like that of Mr Apawh.
Notwithstanding, government must ensure that all policies concerning the aged enforced. Also, more benevolent individuals and organisations should pay attention to such vulnerable groups and show them love as often as possible. Ghana has a national aging policy but to what extent has it helped destitute elderly persons in the country?
Let all hands be on deck to ensure the aged are not left to die in poverty and misery.
BY RAISSA SAMBOU