Focusing on Older Adults: A Strategic Approach to Alleviating Chronic Disease Burden in Nigeria

By Olajide J. Olagunju

As Nigeria experiences a demographic shift with an increasing aging population, the health and well-being of the elderly population have emerged as a critical concern. The rise in chronic diseases among the elderly poses a critical challenge, necessitating a thoughtful and strategic approach to address the unique healthcare needs of this demographic. In this article, I explore a comprehensive strategy design not only to mitigate the burden of chronic diseases among older Nigerians but also to foster a society where aging is synonymous with vitality, dignity, and enhanced quality of life.

The aging landscape in Nigeria brings forth myriads of opportunities and challenges, demanding a nuanced approach to healthcare delivery. The prevalence of chronic diseases including cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and age-related disorders underscores the importance of tailored interventions that go beyond conventional medical treatments. As I delve into the strategic framework, I aim to shed light on the multifaceted aspects of geriatric care, emphasizing preventive measures, holistic health integration, community support, and collaborative efforts that collectively contribute to a healthier and more resilient older population and advocate for a shift from reactive healthcare models to proactive and inclusive strategies that prioritize the well-being of elderly Nigerians. By understanding the unique critical, social, and economic factors at play, I envision a healthcare landscape that not only addresses chronic diseases but also empowers older adults to age with grace, dignity, and a sense of purpose.

In my opinion, the following strategic lens will inspire a dialogue that mobilizes stakeholders, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the community to collectively build a future where aging is synonymous with robust health and vibrant living.

To comprehensively address the healthcare needs of older adults, I believe that a holistic integration of geriatric care systems into our healthcare system is imperative. This involves equipping healthcare professionals with the necessary skills to provide comprehensive and specialised skills tailored to the unique health challenges faced by older individuals. By embracing holistic healthcare integration, Nigeria can create a healthcare system that not only addresses the medical needs of elderly people but also promotes their overall well-being. This approach acknowledges the interconnected nature of health factors and aims to provide more effective, personalised, and compassionate care for the elderly population. In my opinion, Prevention is also key to reducing the incidence of chronic diseases among older adults. Public awareness campaigns should emphasize the importance of regular health checkups, health education, lifestyle modification, and community engagement. By encouraging preventive measures Nigeria can mitigate the impact of chronic disease on our aging population, promote healthier aging, reduce the burden of chronic diseases, and improve the overall well-being of the elderly population.

The establishment of Community-Based Support Programs is another idea I believe can promote the well-being of older adults. Establishing community-based programs that provide social support, mental health services, and educational resources will empower our elderly population to manage chronic diseases effectively and strengthen the fabric of local communities promoting a supportive environment for healthy aging.

Furthermore, I think that Investing in the training of healthcare professionals with a focus on geriatric care is pivotal in improving the health of the elderly people in Nigeria. This ensures that our health workers are well prepared and equipped with the knowledge and skill sets necessary to address the unique and multifaceted healthcare needs of older individuals. This not only enhances the health outcomes for elderly individuals but also contributes to the overall well-being and dignity of the elderly population in the country.

Finally, I believe that Collaboration between government bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community leaders is essential to address the complex healthcare needs of the elderly population. By working together, stakeholders can create a synergistic approach that not only improves health outcomes but also enhances the overall quality of life for the elderly population and addresses the healthcare needs of this demographic group.
In conclusion, as we envision a future where aging is embraced with vitality and dignity, I think it will be good for us as a nation, to adopt a holistic and forward-thinking stance on geriatric care. The journey towards enhancing the health of older Nigerians requires a commitment to preventive healthcare, geriatric-focused training for healthcare professionals, and the establishment of a robust community-based support system. It demands a collaborative effort where governmental organizations, healthcare providers, and local communities converge to create an ecosystem that nurtures the well-being of our aging population.

In embracing this strategic vision, I believe we will not merely address a healthcare challenge; we will be shaping a narrative that celebrates aging as an integral and vibrant phase of life. As we move forward, I think it will be good for us to champion policies, initiatives, and societal norms that promote a dignified and health-conscious aging experience for every older Nigerian. Through collective action, we can truly create a society where the golden years are characterized by robust health, resilience, and a flourishing sense of purpose. The journey towards a healthier future for our older adults starts today, and it is a journey worth embarking on with unwavering commitment and optimism.

*Dr Olajide J. Olagunju, MD, MPH,  a seasoned medical doctor and a postdoctoral scholar, writes from the United States

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