When a baby is abandoned where ever, we feel pain in the heart and try to help him or her. But, somehow, we seem not to appreciate the fact that old people, too, can be abandoned and, like abandoned babies, cry out for help and love. I discovered this when, in my fifties, I was privileged to give health lectures at an old people’s gathering in Lagos every Saturday morning. One of the regulars was a former principal of African Church Teacher Training College on college Road, near Iju Road, in Lagos after his retirement.
The concept of an OLD PEOPLES HOME in Nigeria today is a match- box- size idea, where as the need has arisen for a serious upgrade. It is comparable to the walking of cattle over thousands of kilometers in thick forest instead of settling them in ranches. Whenever I hear that Nigeria’s former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida ( rtd), lives in a 50- room fortress, all the rooms en – suite, I Wonder what use his children would put this property to after his departure from the earth.
Honestly, I am not one of those people who wonder why people build five -Star hotel types of homes, if they do so with legitimate income. For we build not only for today but for tomorrow. We are meant to be beautiful in our thoughts and being, to make our earth beautiful. Some times, I find myself in my dreams in houses of such indescribably beauty i will love to build here on earth if I had the means. Who knows, there may even be forces beyond us which want to use the houses we build today for purposes tomorrow that are larger than us and our vision. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep about 100 old people, two in a room, in Gen. Bangida fortress after he has gone?, I sometimes think. Currently, an old people home is not bigger than a bungalow or storey building which houses few people and does not serve the needs of the time. The village setting that would appear more appropriate is a settlement like a mini housing estate with recreational grounds, traffic free walkways, places of worship, shops, refectories, hospitals and the likes of them. Housing would not be dormitory type. It has to have the semblance of a home. People who can comfortably live together would be grouped in rooms. Social workers would attend to their needs. Young people from the corporate world should be free to visit this village to put smiles on the faces of the residents.
So should their relations who may make token monetary contributions towards the upkeep of the settlement or Village. I love fund- raising work. And I doff my hat for fund raisers who do not tear the contributor’s pockets with large chunks of periodic donations.
In Lagos State, such fund raisers should be able to mobilize about one million residents to contribute not more than N100 (yes, N100) each every month. That would amount to 100 million every month, almost huge enough to provide food , medication, electricity water, social work e.t.c. At about the age of 18, I participated in high school for the raising of funds for a BAPTIST UNIVERSITY proposed at that time in the 1960s. I was a member of the MINISTERIAL SOCIETY which went to village Baptist Churches around Oyo town to preach the Gospel and put in a few words for widows mite donations for the University. I sometimes wonder why public relations departments of Nigerian universities cannot do this and the universities cry to the government every year. Every year, they
Produce thousands of graduates. In 10 years, some may have 100,000 graduates on their hands. If each graduate remits N 100 every month by standing Order on his or her bank account, that is about N120 million a year.
The law of Motion governs our life along side other laws of Nature. Old people should not be static people in this village. Once in a while, they can be taken in groups, on town or city visits. I recall driving some of my old uncles who could not go out on their own on sight- seeing on some Sundays when the traffic was better than on work days. They were shocked to see how the city was transforming. The felt a part of it, felt warmer, happier, better and healthier after the town or City cruises.
Space is not enough to make other suggestions. This is just an idea which can be expanded, that is improved upon.
Old people who can no longer properly look after themselves need love and care. Children and young people should be reminded they, too, would grow up and old some days. We were taught something akin to this at Igbobi College, Lagos, in the days of a part had in South Africa. When we saw photographs of Children like us who were suffering in their own Land, we made contributions to a South Africa Fund from our meagre pocket money. We can galvanise the country( market women, traders, school children, workers etc) to look after old people.