Mr Speaker, I am very grateful for the opportunity.
Mr Speaker, according to a research sponsored by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), as at 1960, about 325,178 individuals in this country were above the age of 60. This figure, by the year 2012, had ballooned to 1.53 million of the population as at the year 2012 representing 370 per cent increase from the year 1960.
Out of these 1.53 million individuals who are classified as old people or the elderly, only 229,000 benefit from cash grants from organisations such as SSNIT, CAP 30 Pension Scheme and the LEAP programme.
Mr Speaker, actually, getting old is supposed to be a blessing, but in the absence of systems and mechanisms that would cushion an individual, it might end up being more or less a curse.
Mr Speaker, as we say in medical terms, ageing is a risk for a lot of conditions. Once one clocks 40 years, the person is at risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes -- In fact, when one clocks 60 years, the person's immune system usually goes down as compared to the average person and this elderly person is at risk of tuberculosis and a lot of conditions.
Mr Speaker, women are at risk of menopausal syndrome, which is a very disturbing and irritating condition, where they complain of nonspecific symptoms that unfortunately live with them for the rest of their lives.
Mr Speaker, the men face peculiar prostrate problems; either the prostate gets enlarged, or some even get cancer of the prostate. Once they cross 60 years, all these are risks they face.
Mr Speaker, the risk is not restricted to physical illness; there are also mental and psychological issues. As one grows older, one loses friends along the way, and loneliness sets in. That alone is a very significant problem.
Mr Speaker, so, the question is, what are some of the systems put in place in our setting or country to cushion the old? The LEAP is a wonderful programme. Unfortunately, the number of old people in this country far overwhelm the resources of the LEAP.
Medically, I believe strongly that we have been discriminatory when we come to geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that focuses on taking care of old people. It focuses on preventing medical conditions that are associated with the elderly as well as manging them.
Mr Speaker, you would be surprised to hear that the practice of geriatrics in this country is almost non-existent or very minimal. When we go to any big hospital like the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and ask for a specialist who takes care of old people, we might find it very difficult to get one. So, as a country, we must start to look at mechanisms or health systems that would take care of our old people.
One very important policy that we must look at, which I have mentioned in this House before, is a wellness centre. At least, we could have one in every district or region, where we do not have people who are sick, vomiting and all that. But one walks in looking healthy, and goes in for screening or to check up on one's health status.
In this country, if we want to just check our blood pressures, when one goes to the La General Hospital, for example, one may get to the Out Patients Department (OPD) and see an accident case with somebody bleeding, or someone giving birth on the floor. One would just be put off and just go away.
We do not have any place where we could walk in, not see blood and just get our systems checked. So, this is a very important thing we would have to look at if it comes to taking care of the old.
Mr Speaker, I do not have a lot of resources when it comes to discussing the finances of taking care of the old, which is pension schemes; but I would just briefly mention that one of the systems that makes old age a blessing and not a curse is a healthy and strong pension scheme.
In this country, all of us are aware of the challenges of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and their survivability. It is my prayer that SNNIT takes good care of the old.