Aging with a Smile Initiative (ASI) briefs media

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

Institutional Layout.

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.

Joof.

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

household income.

“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

society.

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

country.

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

Gambia.

“We educate patients on the prevention and management of non

communicable diseases, particularly hypertension and Diabetes,” said

Mr. Joof.

He concluded that they are looking forward to mobilising adequate

resources in order to expand the organization’s services to the rural

communities.

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.