Giving Hope To The Elderly
WHILE some young people do not want to have anything to do with old people, because of the peculiar challenge they pose in terms of care, Wunmi Cosmas, a mother and humanitarian, has thrown her weight behind them, giving them shoulders to lean on with her Hope For The Old organisation, which brings together these senior citizens to meet and mingle.
Powered by Winix Hope for the Old International Foundation and Beautiful Prophecy Centre, the organisation aside from serving as avenue for this group of people that have seen better days on earth to meet and discuss their common challenges, offers to feed them, provides for their Medicare and invites experts to talk to them on health matters.
Giving reasons for the organisation, Wunmi said, “it’s not something I really say I want to do, however, the idea came when my mother, at her old age, felt she should be allowed to go to the old people’s home to have fun, sit and discuss with people of her age. We allowed her to do just that. But one of the days, we went there with her; I discovered it was not a place to have fun. I left the place with the desire to create a better place for the elderly.
“Though, we meet every Thursday at Impress Events Centre, Iyana Odo, Igando, we look forward to having a recreation centre and other things that will make it possible for the elderly to come daily to have fun. Elders are very important in the society, but they have been neglected in our society. Unlike the advanced countries where welfare services are provided for them, our society has unconsciously ignored them and many of them do not have hope of tomorrow; so we provide the platform for them to survive and live life to its fullest, irrespective of their social status,” she revealed.
Wunmi, who is the host and executive producer of a defunct TV show, Touching Lives Show, said, “most elders die before their time because they have been abandoned, with no care, so, they feel depressed and lonely. And part of the ways we make them happy is to carve out programmes that celebrate and cheer them up. We have a segment called ‘Celebrate Alive through, which we do this.
“Africans are fond of celebrating the old when they are dead; they will buy cows and organise big parties. But against that background, we have inculcated the culture of celebrating our old ones while they are alive. For every month end, we celebrate people born in that month. We give them gifts, they also exchange gifts with one another and their family members do come to celebrate with them. It holds every last Thursday of the month. The hall is usually well decorated with balloons and flowers and we cut cake for all to eat. They dance and, at times, tell us stories of their past. It is always fun,” she stated.
Telling how the elders feel being celebrated the President of ‘Hope For The Old’, who is also an inspirational singer disclosed, “some of them are emotional because they have never been celebrated, while to some it is fun and they are usually grateful. We allow them to come with their children to make them know it is good to celebrate the elderly.”
Besides feeding the elderly for free, the organisation provides capital for some of them, especially those that are still strong to engage in small enterprises to do so.
“We also empower them to do little businesses to keep them going. We give them start up capital, go to the market to buy what they want to sell and give to them. We monitor them to make sure that the capital is not diverted to other uses. Little businesses like retail outlets keep them busy and healthy. We have been able to give free eyeglasses to those we have tested to have different eye problems. And because of the increasing number of people coming to the centre, about 20 every meeting day, we now give free eyeglasses based on the available fund. And those we cannot give, we place them on awaiting list,” she stressed.
Founded in 2012, Wunmi explained that old people are often depressed because some of them are still fending for their children when the reverse ought to be the case. “A lot of the old people we have in this organisation are peculiar, 90 per cent of them have children, who are still fully dependent on them. During our family session, we discovered that 90 per cent of them have children who are jobless. These elderly people are still running around for their children, to get them jobs and other necessities of life. Again, there is this other group whose children are on drug, have mental cases and other challenges. All these combined with the situation in the country have made some of them to be so depressed and when they come to us they feel free and have fun,” she said.
Could some of these challenges not be attributed to lack of adequate plan for their children in their youthful days? “Well I have maintained a very liberal mind and have accepted to take people the way they are when they come here, irrespective of their past mistakes. I am not government agency that employs people, but we counsel the parents and also the children. What we do is therapeutic because we cannot give jobs, we can only counsel parents and children on what to do to earn a living. And one important thing about their situation is that they talk about them, express their feelings among themselves, which help them to know that there are others going through the same or similar challenges.
“This on its own is hope, as it gives them the leverage to be strong, believing that their situations will one day change for good. We manage them to enable them manage their psyche by giving them the listening ear.
Is the free feeding part of the leverage? “Yes, it is a way to make them eat healthy food. The first thing we put into consideration is to give them something that is good for their health. Apart from the cooked food, we also give them raw food items that they can cook, when they get home. We give provisions and cash to those of them that are in great need. In fact, a food specialist monitors their food.
“Most of them have sickness like hypertension, stroke and diabetes, which they are managing. And often, we bring in medical doctors that partner with us to give them talks on how to manage their health. We also bring in a professional to take them on exercises. This holds every second Thursday of the month. They enjoy it and look forward to having it. We are conscious of their health and age, and give them something that suites them,” Wunmi revealed.
While some people say elderly people are difficult in nature, Wunmi disclosed that they are the best set of people to work with. They are so orderly, time conscious and organised, she noted, adding that ‘the free-feeding session starts by 9am and before this time, they are already seated.
“I am yet to see a single flaw about them, though they have a lot of issues with their health and children; they are still organised. You will see them run to meeting when they are late; they are not like our present day youth. We have a lot of them over 70 years. In fact, 40 per cent of them are in the age bracket of 70 and 75 years, while 20 per cent are within the age bracket of 86 and 90.”
Knowing how the society threats the elderly, the organisation has begun programmes that prepare people, who are nearing this stage to go into it with ease.
Speaking on this, Wunmi said, “ about 40 per cent of people that make up old people in our organisation fall within the age bracket of 60 and 65; we want to prepare them for old age. If we can ratify things within this group, we would prevent many of them from falling into the mistakes of the very old ones. It is part of the three main aims of the foundation, which are to establish free feeding centre for the elderly, provide care and protection for the abandoned elderly, and prepare matured adult for old age.”
These senior citizens, who cut across different social classes relate to one another like sisters and brothers, sharing jokes and making themselves happy. In fact, their gathering looks like the coming together of kinsmen. They look really happy; closely knitted. The co-ordinator of the house, said: “These are respected senior citizens, who have served Nigeria at different levels. Out of over 200 of them 90 per cent are literate. Their English language is flawless, they read newspapers and know what goes on in the society. Some of them have retired from work, but need the company of their age mates, while the others are still fending for their children.
“Apart from those that come here, we still have some others we visit in their houses to give them provisions,” she revealed.
With the number of old people increasing in the centre and new activities added to their schedules, one would think Wunmi and her husband have all the money in this world to run the centre. The founder noted, “fund is one of our challenges, my husband and I foot the bills most times. And once in a while a few spirited Nigerians do come to donate to our cause. We are also grateful to organisations like Bakers World that donates the birthday cakes.”
Mingling with the elderly, knowing what they want and how to make them happy, Wunmi commonly called Mommy by these senior citizens, disclosed that some of them say they would have planned properly for their old age. She said some of them are still paying rents and still running around for their children.
“It is short-sightedness to think old age will not come, which is the reason our organisation has included it as part of its mission to prepare the matured adult for this stage. When you know you are going to be old, you consciously plan for it. Failure to plan for old age is the basic problem of the elderly.”
Explaining that old age is not a disadvantage, but youth in another form, Mommy advises the youth to take stock of their life because old age is inevitable.
“Don’t do things you will regret in the next 40-50 years. If you are a women do not do things that when you grow old you wished you never did them. If you are man live well, live healthy, be health conscious, eat well and at the end of it all have the fear of God,” she sermonised.
Are old people really important to the society? “Yes! Any society that does not take care of its elderly is accursed and a delinquent society. Wisdom is associated with age and not caring for them will contribute to their early death. Old people have some knowledge and wisdom the youth require to run the society and live aright. May be the neglect of the elderly is the cause of the problems we are presently experiencing in our society,” she noted.