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Elders appeal for entrepreneurship fund

The Chairperson of the National Council for Older Persons (NCOP), Joram Ruranga Tibasiimwa, has asked the government to establish a Livelihood Fund programme to enable elders start-up development projects.

Tibasiimwa says that most senior citizens are still vibrant enough to establish projects like piggery, poultry, and cattle grazing that can improve their household income.

“If such a development fund is created, then I believe that older persons will benefit because at 60-80 years they are able to walk and work,” says Tibasiimwa.

He made the remarks during an exclusive interview with theCooperator last weekend at his home in Boma cell, Kamukuzi division in Mbarara City.

“We want the government to establish an Older Persons Livelihood Fund that would facilitate savings and credit schemes for the elderly. This should be implemented through a special government program such as SACCOs and Emyooga to enable older persons to participate in productive activities,” Tibasiimwa explained.

He also challenged the government to fulfill the presidential pledge of injecting Shs 50m into the older persons’ cooperatives under the Older Persons Act 2013.

“We have over 60 older persons’ SACCOs in the whole country and the president had promised that he would inject Shs 50m so that elders who are still active between 60-79 years of age can borrow money and establish projects for themselves, but we’ve never seen that money,” the elders’ Chairperson said.

Under the proposed scheme, Tibasiimwa says people aged 60-79 can borrow money to start entrepreneur projects that can cater for their families instead of begging from relatives.

Lay Canon Joram a former headteacher at Mbarara High School who served in government for the last 33 years advocates for an increase in the Social Assistance Grant Empowerment (SAGE) fund from the current Shs 25,000 to Shs 50,000 per older person per month.

He further called for a lowering of the beneficiaries’ age (from 80 years at present) so that more older people can benefit from the SAGE fund.

“I urge the government to lower the age of elder persons to the normal old age (60) as it is accepted internationally such that everybody who is 60 years old can reap from his contributions to the country,” Tibasiimwa says.

He also encouraged parliament to implement a law for the protection of Older Persons’ property rights from unscrupulous individuals seeking to exploit and abuse them.

“As the Chairperson for the National Council for Older Persons, I have traveled across the country and ascertained the issues that severely impact older persons. We found that it is very necessary that we should fight for our properties and rights,” says Tibasiimwa.

“Older persons suffer from elder abuse, land grabbing, and disrespect from young people that robs them of their dignity,” he added.

COVID-19 effect

Tibasiimwa says that Older Persons were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic since their caretakers were not unable to work.

“Scientists say that this disease affects elders more than any other group of people, but some of us were even more vulnerable because some of our children who are meant to take care of us were not working. Thus we missed out on basic needs like food and clothing,” Tibasiimwa said. 

“Many older persons died due to lack of transport to access health services, while others ended up on the streets,” he added.

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