I am aware that I write from a very white middle class point of view and was delighted when one of my email subscribers agreed to write an article for me comparing ageing in the UK and Nigeria.
Ambrose is Nigerian and living in Newcastle.
AGEISM: COMPARING THE AFRICAN-NIGERIAN MODEL TO THE UK
The elderly are traditionally cared for by their children and extended families. Nursing homes are rare and only serve elderly people who do not have families and the previous Government were not ready or keen to investment in these areas but the present administration are doing more at the moment to encourage Nursing Homes, care Homes and Independent Supported Living (ISL/Domiciliary Care services models).
I would be willing to help this sector in Nigeria and show them the UK model which I have worked for the past 11 years now an ISL Manager in Newcastle upon-Tyne in the UK. Presently, it’s only the wealthy people in Nigeria that are championing for Care Homes as they have the resources to fund it and will not want to rely on family to look after the elderly.
In Nigeria, it is a duty of care for families to look after their aged and they do not rely on government funds to do so. The Nigerian culture allows families to do this and some feel that if someone else is paid to do it that they will never do it the way families would have.
Paid workers will always look for shortcuts to carry out care and thereby compromise it. There are penalties for compromising care if it happens. Elders are highly respected in Nigeria unlike in the UK where sometimes they are stigmatised, bullied and ridiculed.
I remember working in a Residential Home here in Northumberland and finished a night shift and was trying to catch a bus home to get ready for evening examination and arrived at the bus stop and found an elderly woman in a pool of blood and there were more than 15 people at the bus stop rushing to get on the bus and someone was dying.
I ignored getting on the bus and decided to help her checked and there was pulse and put her in a recovery position and I called the Ambulance straightaway and the they arrived after 7 minutes and explained the situation to the Paramedics and my situation, while the ambulance was ready to take the old lady away, I was asked to jump into the ambulance as well since they are going to Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI)- Newcastle and chatted to the men while they were sorting the woman out and they were very pleased with my proactiveness to help saving the woman’s life and they asked for my contact details which I only provided when they insisted
I had to give out my work address only and after a couple of weeks, the family of the elderly lady visited the Residential Home where I was working alongside with Father Melia (RIP) and they insisted on seeing see me but due to the company’s policies and procedures, they were not allowed to come into the building. However the Vicar knew me well as he was a frequent visitor to the home to pray for the residents.
He told me that, “This family wants to see you face to face”got permission from my Home Manager who she said I was free to accept the gifts and that it was a good will gesture that I hadn’t ask for. I accepted all of them but rejected the brown envelope as there was £200 cash in it. I never did meet the family but sent a goodwill message to them saying that what I did for their mother was what I hoped someone would do for my grandmother if she were ever to be in need.
In Nigeria, elderly are well respected even if they don’t have capacity to make decisions, even at the point of death, they are loved, kissed, cuddled and adored but in the UK here it is very different. We still have communal meals in Nigeria and we all eat at one dining table and chat along if necessary but with limits as young ones are not allowed to be very chatty whilst eating, you cannot be having your meals and be on your phone, tablets, iPods/iPads, game consoles or be changing TV channels in the presence of your elders, it is rude and disrespectful.
If you are at the bus stop waiting for the bus or train, elderly and children including sick or pregnant women must get on first before young ones, you will let them in or help them in before you attempt to board and they will love you for doing that but in UK it is on the whole the reverse and there is a lack or respect.
In Nigeria, family do more for the elderly and do not rely on the Government for anything. In the villages, there is nothing like Nannies or babysitters getting paid for the services, families help each other out with no string attached or asking for anything in return, it’s only in big cities like Lagos State, Abuja and others that provides those essential services for people to pay for.
Most working parents in the rural communities would drop off their young children for their grannies and they go to work and on their way back from work, they pop by to pick them up but some would like to go over to help them out with children and even help them make dinners before they return from work and do other household chores. Nigerian customs and traditions are very robust.
We are always there to help each other out, lend money to our friends and families without any string attached to it or ask for a interests, some will even give you loans and at the point of paying back, they will tell you to forget about it or ask for half back, who does that in this country or even trust young children with your friend?
In this county most teenagers do not have respect for the elderly and they should be seeking to adopt our Nigerian model if this country does not disintegrate.