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Senior Citizens Say Medics ‘Ignoring’ Them

by Oswald Niyonzima
4:21 pm

An elderly citizen is helped to reach a voting site in Southern province, early 2016

Elderly people have appealed to government to introduce an elderly care option at the faculty of medicine because currently medical practitioners ‘ignore’ their illness.

Rwanda Elders Advisory Forum (REAF) gathered in Kigali to discuss their welfare, relations with the community and to make some recommendations.

The elders said that they do not receive due attention when they go to see the doctor since many connect their illness to their age.

“Calm down. These are symptoms of your age nothing more,” Beatrice Mushimiyimana, coordinator of Ntsindagiza, a caregiver association quotes a doctor who once told a senior citizen had asthma problems.

“Like we have paediatricians, there should also be medics specialized in treating elderly people because they develop diseases specific to their age.”

Dr Emile Rwamasirabo, a retired medical doctor and famous urological Surgeon supports the idea to have this elderly science ‘Gerontology’ taught in Rwanda.

“Gerontology should be incorporated in medicine and social work,” Dr Rwamasirabo said emphasizing that social work has not been given due value in past years in Rwanda.

Antoine Mugesera, one of the senior citizen

In the meantime, Rwamasirabo said trained community social workers could help in monitoring and advising elderly people on their health, since they mostly suffer non-communicable diseases such as blood pressure, diabetics, cancer, etc.

Referring to a global Leave None Behind (LNB) 2017 report, that was carried out in 30 countries including Rwanda, Mushimiyimana said that Rwanda elders need particular attention because they undergo discrimination in different areas.

“Elders are least to have access to services, and this makes their lives worse,” Mushimiyimana said, citing loneliness, lack of freedom of expression, lack of opportunities, depression, poverty and above all lack of elderly policy among other issues they face.

Louis Basengo Munyaburanga, 66, a university lecturer and founder of ARPA, a Rwandese Association of Elderly People, said the root cause biggest number of  issues of elderly people is loneliness.

Munyaburanga like other participants urges government to establish an elderly policy and a senior citizen’s council that will have to oversee all elders’ problems and help in finding solutions to their concerns.

“Like other particular categories of Rwandans such as women and children have institutions in charge of them, there also should be a government entity that oversees elderly peoples’ issues,” he said.

REAF President Dr. Augustin Iyamuremye said the current situation of elderly people shows an urgency for the Sinior Citizen Council which should be in charge of all elderly peoples’ issues.

Dr. Iyamuremye said the report from their consultative meeting will be handed to the government with a copy to the President’s Office for consideration.

According to REAF, elderly people are those aged from 60 years and above. Currently, they represent 4.9%. In 2050 they will have increased to 20% of Rwandan citizen.

While in the last decade Life expectancy in Rwanda was under 40 years, today Rwandans life expectancy is at 66 years, which assures of more elderly people in the coming years.

Thus, Rwamasirabo believes that in case they get good care and treatment they could contribute to the development of the country and their welfare.