DoFA Concludes 4th Symposium, Emphasizing Respect for Elderly Citizens

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By Foday Moriba Conteh

The Dorwontony Organization for the Aged (DoFA) concluded its 4th symposium on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 in a bid to enhance the well-being of the elderly in Sierra Leone. Held under the theme: “Bridging the Gap Between the Youth and the Aged,” the symposium brought together stakeholders, youth and elderly participants at the 50/50 Group Hall on Tower Hill in Freetown.

Reflecting on the symposium’s purpose, Doreen Barrie, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Dorwontony Organization for the Aged (DoFA), highlighted its annual role in addressing issues affecting the elderly in the country. She emphasized that this year’s 4th edition is aimed to foster better understanding and connections between the younger generation and the elderly.

She underscored that the symposium serves as one of the organization’s initiatives dedicated to enhancing the welfare and status of aging individuals, particularly during challenging times further emphasizing the importance of ongoing support from the Government and other institutions for the elderly.

Moreover, Doreen Barrie pointed out the longstanding gap between the youth and the elderly, stressing the necessity of bridging this divide. She emphasized the need to combat neglect toward the elderly and advocated for a renewed commitment to caring for them.

She concluded by stating that the symposium provided a platform for stakeholders to engage in dialogue, brainstorm solutions and chart a path forward to change the narrative related to the elderly.

Ibrahim Mohamed Sesay, a Social Service Officer at the Ministry of Social Welfare and Children’s Affairs, acknowledged his Ministry’s responsibility for elderly care in the country.

He mentioned the Ministry’s efforts in that regard, despite resource limitations and other challenges disclosing how a section has been created within the Ministry to facilitate collaboration with organizations like DoFA to provide assistance to the elderly.

Moreover, he affirmed that the Ministry is actively working toward the enactment of regulations aimed at promoting and protecting the interests of the elderly population in Sierra Leone.

Mohamed S. Bah, the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Healthcare for the Aged, referenced the 2019 Sierra Leone Demographic and Health Survey (2019 SLDHS), which revealed that there are over 200,000 elderly individuals in the country.

He noted that 80% of them are illiterate, while only 3% have university education, highlighting the educational disparity among the elderly population.

Mohamed Bah pointed out that many elderly individuals do not work in the formal sector and therefore lack contributions to NASSIT, the national social security scheme. Consequently, he stated that numerous elderly individuals are suffering without access to NASSIT benefits, underscoring the absence of regulations to safeguard and support the elderly.

Dr. Julius Spencer, on his part, emphasized that many young people underestimate the importance of aging. He highlighted the role of NASSIT in supporting elderly individuals and stressed the necessity for young people to contribute to the scheme to safeguard their own old age.

In her keynote address, Mayor of the Freetown Municipality, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, expressed gratitude to the Dorwontony Organization for the Aged (DoFA) for organizing the symposium, particularly focusing on the theme: “Bridging the Gap Between the Youth and the Aged,” which she deemed highly significant.

She highlighted the unfortunate reality in Sierra Leone, where not all elderly individuals have the opportunity to enjoy old age, noting that many elderly people suffer due to lack of care-giving support, while some are childless. She also called upon the youth of Sierra Leone to demonstrate respect and compassion toward the elderly population.

“Young people should honor and support the elderly because aging is a stage that every individual will eventually experience. Instead of neglecting them, we should approach them, learn from their wealth of experience, and show them care,” she emphasized.

The highlight of the event was a panel discussion centered on the theme: “Bridging the Gap Between the Youth and the Aged,” featuring Christiana M. E. Sutton-Koroma Rev, Mariama Mabel Janneh, James M’batilo Lumeh, and Dr. Julius Spencer as panellists, with the Marketing Director of Afrimoney serving as the moderator.

The session was followed by an interactive question-and-answer segment, providing an opportunity for the elderly attendees to share their experiences.


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