A research conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) has recently unveiled that a significant rise in the number of elderly individuals in the country over the past six decades.According to the latest data released by the GSS indicates that the population of Ghanaians aged 60 years and over has skyrocketed from 200,000 in 1960 to a staggering 2 million in 2021.
Breaking down the statistics further, the GSS also revealed that out of the total elderly population, 861,000 are males, accounting for 43% of the figure, while 1,120,000 are females, making up 56%.
This gender disparity could potentially signal the need for targeted support and services for elderly women in Ghana.
This was disclosed by Reverend Father Andrew Campbell, an Irish-Ghanaian Catholic Missionary and founder of Lepers Aid Committee at the at the 1st Ghana Ageing Conference and Commemoration of International Day of Older Persons in Accra organised by Los Abuelos foundation.
The International day of older people is observed on October 1 each year. On December 14, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish October 1, as the International Day of Older People as recorded in resolution 45/106.
Reverend Father Andrew Campbell reiterated that projections provided by the GSS indicate that the elderly population in Ghana is expected to continue its upward trend.
He added that by 2050, it is estimated that the number of elderly Ghanaians will reach a staggering 6.3 million, constituting approximately 12% of the country’s total population. This suggests a substantial increase in the proportion of elderly individuals compared to the present day.
Reverend Father Andrew Campbell pointed out that the surge in Ghana’s elderly population poses a series of challenges and opportunities for the government and society as a whole.
According to him, with the anticipated growth in demand for healthcare, social services, and pension schemes, it will be crucial for authorities to implement policies that cater to the unique needs of this demographic.
Reverend Father Andrew Campbell further stressed that as the elderly population increases, there is a pressing need to ensure that adequate support systems are in place to address their healthcare needs, including geriatric care facilities and specialized medical services. Additionally, initiatives should be developed to promote social inclusion and tackle age-related issues such as elder abuse and neglect.
Responding to the data, the Catholic Missionary and founder of Lepers Aid Committee, urged the government to consider the implications of this demographic shift when planning for the future.
This he noted that Investments in healthcare infrastructure, social welfare programmes, and pension schemes are essential to provide a quality of life for elderly Ghanaians and empower them to live out their Golden Years with dignity and security.
Reverend Father Andrew Campbell noted the GSS’s findings shed light on a demographic transition that could redefine the social fabric of Ghana. While the increasing elderly population poses several challenges, it also presents an opportunity to foster intergenerational connections and ensure that the wisdom and experience of older Ghanaians are valued and appreciated.
He stated that as Ghana looks ahead to the next few decades, it is crucial for policymakers and stakeholders to actively address the needs of the aging population, promote inclusivity, and build an equitable society that values all members, regardless of age.
Reverend Father Andrew Campbell also disclosed that there are 341,960 elderly individuals in Ghana who live alone, with a staggering 62,000 of them being 80 years old or above.
What is even more concerning is the fact that one out of every four elderly people is classified as multidimensional poor, raising questions about the current state of support for this vulnerable population.
“As the number of elderly citizens continues to rise, there is a pressing need to assess whether Ghana is adequately prepared to cater to their specific needs. The country must ensure the availability of appropriate medical facilities, suitable housing options, and sufficient healthcare professionals to address the unique conditions and challenges faced by the elderly”. He added.
He stressed that under the 1992 Constitution, Ghana has vowed to provide fair and equal treatment to all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, beliefs, political affiliations, social status, or age. This includes granting the elderly population equal access to public services and guaranteeing their basic human rights.
Reverend Father Andrew Campbell however, said the current situation begs the question, is Ghana living up to these constitutional promises? With a staggering two million individuals aged 60 and above, only half of those in the 60-69 age group are actively employed, while the percentage decreases further in the 70-79 and 80-plus age groups. Most of the elderly employees are found in the private sector.
“As these concerning statistics come to light, it is crucial for Ghana to prioritize the healthcare, housing, and employment needs of its elderly population. Failure to do so would not only be a violation of their fundamental rights but also a disservice to a generation that has contributed greatly to the development of the nation”. He added.
Reverend Father Andrew Campbell called for a fundamental shift in how senior citizens are considered in society rather than being viewed as a nuisance or treated as invisible and powerless, the elderly deserved to be recognized as individuals with dignity and rights.
He emphasized the importance of combating all forms of inequalities and discrimination in order to promote a just and fair society for all citizensstressing the need for better protection of human rights, which they described as a universal principle of justice and dignity.
Reverend Father Andrew Campbellalso highlighted the vital contributions made by elderly citizens to society, and called for better protection of their rights in recognition of these contributions adding that; older people suffering from hypertension or diabetes would have access to free medication under the National Health Insurance Scheme.