Zanzibar & Mainland: Each year, we commemorate the “International Day of Older Persons” on 1 October to raise public awareness about the opportunities and challenges presented to the ageing populations and to mobilize the families, community groups and stakeholders to address the difficulties faced by older people. This year, the United Republic of Tanzania joined the global community to celebrate the day under the theme “Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World”, reminding us of the significant contributions that older people continue to make in all our lives.
The day was colourfully celebrated in Mainland and Zanzibar through countrywide events that raised awareness about the importance of leaving no one behind, especially in the context of the declaration of 2021-2030 as the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing.
WHO has been at the forefront in supporting the national climax events in collaboration with the HelpAge International and the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups. Other key actors in attendance included: Hon. Dr. Dorothy Gwajima, Minister of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups; Hon. Rosemary Senyamule, Dodoma Regional Commissioner; Hon. Dr. Zainab Chaula, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups; Commissioners from the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups; Senior Officials from President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government; WHO staff and older persons representing 26 regions of Tanzania Mainland.
In the lead up to the climax events, several activities were implemented including: a joint press briefing; a national symposium; provision of screening services (Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar, Eyesight); COVID-19 vaccination and Mental Health and Psychosocial Services.
Speaking at the national event in Zanzibar on 1st October 2022, the Second Vice President, Hon. Hemed Suleiman Abdalla said, “As a nation we have a responsibility to ensure that older persons get equal opportunity to do things they value and continue contributing to the national development agenda”.
“Older people are the backbone of society. Maintaining the health of older people is an investment in human and social capital. They have accumulated financial and human capital to support socio economic development. They are the promoters of cultural values, arbitrators, and custodians of our history. They should not be neglected.”, said Hon. Hemed Suleiman Abdalla.
The Minister for Social Welfare Development, Elderly, Gender and Children, Ms Riziki Pembe Juma, committed to provide the senior citizens with special IDs that will enable them to access, concession, priority services offered by government departments, public transport, private and commercial establishments.
A total of 686 IDs were issued to the senior citizens, while 24,000 more cards are being printed. She said that, by having the special IDs, members of the public should know that no elder person will be required to queue for any services and that they will be given priority in all places including public transport.
The weeklong elders’ celebrations in Zanzibar also included seminars and media campaigns calling on members of the community including young people to show love and respect to the elderly because of their contribution to the development of the Isles.
Speaking at the climax event in Dodoma on 3rd October 2022 officiated by the Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office (Policy and Parliamentary Affairs), Hon. George Simbachawene said, “Old age is a source of wisdom and blessings. Our elders make us who we are today and who we aspire to be. Today, we cherish their achievement and draw many lessons through their life experiences”.
His remarks highlighted the need to recognize older people as a resource and called on all key actors to:
- Initiate and sustain programmes that provide older people with the opportunity to participate in economic development initiatives
- Implement strategies and programmes geared towards elimination of negative attitudes and age discrimination
- To fast-track review of the national ageing policy that will lead into formulation of laws that promote and protect the welfare of older people
- To ensure that older people receive quality health services when visiting health facilities including medicines, COVID-19 vaccines and assistive products.
- Communities to report incidents of violence and abuse against older persons
- Councils to actively participate in ending violence and abuse against older persons
- Initiate programmes that will provide an opportunity for older people to sustain good customs and traditions for the youth in the society.
Remarks from the Acting WHO Country Representative, Dr. Zabulon Yoti highlighted the four areas of action stated in the Decade of Healthy Ageing initiative including the need to pursue age-friendly environments free of physical and social barriers; to combat discriminatory ageism; to ensure access to good-quality essential health services; and to provide rehabilitative resources when these become necessary.
“On this International Day of Older Persons, we call on all key actors – civil society, international agencies, professionals, academic, the media and the private sector, to commit to make fundamental shifts necessary to foster healthy ageing. Today, the World Health Organization renews its commitment to continue engaging with the older people, in all their diversities, to hear and amplify their voices, and ultimately, to realise the progress that is so critically needed”, Dr. Zabulon Yoti.
Remarks from the HelpAge International Country Director, Mr. Smart Daniel recognized the significant contributions that older people have made and still can make in our lives. “At the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, for example, you managed to care for the sick and orphaned grandchildren with very little income. Today, we celebrate you as our heroes!” Reiterating the need to protect the older people who are at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19 infection, Mr. Smart urged the senior citizens to get vaccinated. Calling for stronger intersectoral collaboration and partnership, Mr. Daniel said, “Promoting healthy aging is not the work of the government alone. We need to join hands with the private sector and engage more partners to leverage capacities and resources. We look forward to review of the national ageing policy that will lead into formulation of laws that promote and protect the welfare of older people across sectors.”
In addition to providing health screening services and COVID-19 vaccination, the WHO handed over a consignment of 14,000 assistive products worth 193 million Tanzanian shillings to enable older persons continue being functional and independent. Items included walking canes, eyeglasses, wheelchairs, safety and communication devices. This donation made possible through generous support of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is part of a project being implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and HelpAge International to increase access to assistive technology at primary and community level.
Handing over the items, Dr. Yoti commended the Government of Tanzania for being at the forefront in implementing the 71st World Health Assembly Resolution on Assistive Technology adopted in 2018. As initial support, the donation will be provided to health centers and dispensaries in Morogoro region following a training of health care providers and community health care workers who will work closely with the council members to identify those in need of the support.
Receiving the donation, on behalf of the Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Simbachawene expressed appreciation to the World Health Organization for the timely support to the older people and assured that the assistive products will be made available and closer to the people who need them the most.