By Sailu Bah Ageing With a Smile Initiative (ASI), a Community Based Organization whose objective is to provide support for the elderly to live healthier and dignified lives, held a press briefing on their work yesterday, 28 January 2015, at the CIAM office in Kanifing Institutional Layout. Mr. Balla Musa Joof, ASI Secretary General, started by giving an overview of the activities their organization carried out from its inception to date. He said ASI which is now five years was established in January 2010 and that its aim is to promote and protect the health and welfare of older persons ranging from 60 years upwards. “In traditional Gambian society, older persons have always been adequately cared for by family members, neighbours and the wider community. Their contributions have been valued. We are witnessing unprecedented changes in our lives. The elderly face an increasing burden of chronic diseases including diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cardiovascular problems and failing eyesight,” observed Mr. Joof. He said older people play a vital role in African society today, adding that millions of families across the continent would not be surviving without the contribution of older people. He said these ranges from caring for orphaned grandchildren to providing much needed household income. “Yet older people are often excluded from development programmes and discriminated against by services such as health care,” noted the ASI Sect Gen. Mr. Joof said their vision is for the elderly in The Gambia to enjoy good health and remain productive and to be valued and cared for by society. As part of their activities, he told the media that they have been engaging in improving access to basic health care services for disadvantaged older persons and advocating for the rights in the country. On the challenges, he highlighted the issue of inadequate funds, lack of a permanent office as well as the recruitment of volunteers to expand their work to cover the length and breadth of the country. He also noted that they are working with the departments of Social Welfare and Health in order to accomplish their objectives. He also said that they are using health structures that are in various communities in order to render services to old people. The ASI Sect Gen. also revealed that there is no existing legislation or policy that is protecting the welfare of the old people in the Gambia. “We educate patients on the prevention and management of non communicable diseases, particularly hypertension and Diabetes,” said Mr. Joof. He concluded that they are looking forward to mobilising adequate resources in order to expand the organization’s services to the rural communities. Speaking earlier Madam Oumie Sissoho, the Assistant Secretary General of ASI, who also chaired the briefing, noted that old persons who constitute a portion of the population are largely marginalised and are also vulnerable to illness. She said they do not have the necessary attention that is required from the society. “A little interest is shown to old age people, and these people are very vital in our society because they are the foundation to the today’s generation,” she said. Madam Sissoho said most of the old people are not being cared for and they suffer in silence.]]>

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