By Sailu Bah
Ageing With a Smile Initiative (ASI), a Community Based Organization
whose objective is to provide support for the elderly to live
healthier and dignified lives, held a press briefing on their work
yesterday, 28 January 2015, at the CIAM office in Kanifing
Mr. Balla Musa Joof, ASI Secretary General, started by giving an
overview of the activities their organization carried out from its inception to date. He
said ASI which is now five years was established in January 2010 and
that its aim is to promote and protect the health and welfare of older
persons ranging from 60 years upwards.
“In traditional Gambian society, older persons have always been
adequately cared for by family members, neighbours and the wider
community. Their contributions have been valued. We are witnessing
unprecedented changes in our lives. The elderly face an increasing
burden of chronic diseases including diabetes, hypertension,
arthritis, cardiovascular problems and failing eyesight,” observed Mr.
He said older people play a vital role in African society today,
adding that millions of families across the continent would not be
surviving without the contribution of older people. He said these
ranges from caring for orphaned grandchildren to providing much needed
“Yet older people are often excluded from development programmes and
discriminated against by services such as health care,” noted the ASI Sect Gen.
Mr. Joof said their vision is for the elderly in The Gambia to enjoy
good health and remain productive and to be valued and cared for by
As part of their activities, he told the media that they have been
engaging in improving access to basic health care services for
disadvantaged older persons and advocating for the rights in the
On the challenges, he highlighted the issue of inadequate funds, lack
of a permanent office as well as the recruitment of volunteers to
expand their work to cover the length and breadth of the country.
He also noted that they are working with the departments of Social
Welfare and Health in order to accomplish their objectives.
He also said that they are using health structures that are in various
communities in order to render services to old people.
The ASI Sect Gen. also revealed that there is no existing legislation
or policy that is protecting the welfare of the old people in the
“We educate patients on the prevention and management of non
communicable diseases, particularly hypertension and Diabetes,” said
He concluded that they are looking forward to mobilising adequate
resources in order to expand the organization’s services to the rural
Speaking earlier Madam Oumie Sissoho, the Assistant Secretary General
of ASI, who also chaired the briefing, noted that old persons who
constitute a portion of the population are largely marginalised and
are also vulnerable to illness. She said they do not have the
necessary attention that is required from the society.
“A little interest is shown to old age people, and these people are
very vital in our society because they are the foundation to the
today’s generation,” she said.
Madam Sissoho said most of the old people are not being cared for and
they suffer in silence.