The World Health Organization defines ageing as a "gradual and irreversible process that involves changes in tissues and body functions over time." According Mishara and Riegal, it is "an inevitable and natural period of human life characterised by a reduction of body functions, loss of social role of the adult, changes in physical appearance and progressive movement toward the loss of capacities. "An old person is usually the one with the abovementioned features and aged 60 and more. UN projections estimate at 6% the proportion of individuals belonging to the slice age over 60 years as concerns the population of developing countries. In this regard, Cameroon has approximately 1.2 million seniors living more in rural areas than urban with a relative majority of women.
Needs and expectations
Formely beneficiaries of a privileged status of respect and consideration, they are facing many problems today as a result of erosion caused by the modernity of traditional mechanisms of mutual aid and solidarity.
Their needs can be grouped into four main categories:
• Access to specific health care (inability and physical precarity);
• Autonomy and material and financial independence (poverty);
• Psychosocial and affective support (restoration of dignity);
• Social recognition (marginalisation and exclusion).
In Cameroon, the protection and well-being of older people remain one of the key priorities of the Head of State as legally and institutionally manifested. Legally, the Constitution of Cameroon in its preamble states: "The nation must protect (...) the elderly."
Juridically speaking, there is no specific legislation presently as concerns the protection and promotion of the rights of the elderly. However, various provisions of laws and decrees applicable rule their protection.
One can note:
- The Civil Code which requires descendants to take care of their parents unable to provide for their needs by their own means;
- The Penal Code also protects older persons in sections 180, 282, 283, 351, 275, 277, 278, 279,280 and 281.
- The cameroonian social legislation provide a series of texts relating to the organisation of the social protection of older persons including:
• Law N°67/LF/18 of June 1967 on the organisation of social insurance in Cameroon;
• Law N°69/LF/18 of November 10, 1969 establishing the disablement pension and insurance in case of death as modified by Law N°84/007 of July 4, 1984;
• LawN° 84/007 of July 4, 1984 amendinglaw N° 69/LF/18 of November 10, 1969 establishing an insurance regime, disablement pension and insurance in case of death;
• LawN° 92/007 of August 14, 1992 on the Labour Code;
• OrdinanceN° 73/17 of May 22, 1973 relating to the organisation of social insurance;
• DecreeN° 74/733 of August 19, 1974 fixing enabling modalities of Law N°69/LF/18 of November 10, 1969 establishing an insurance regime, disablement pension and insurance in case of death;
• DecreeN° 94/199 of October 7, 1994 on the General Statute of Public Service to organise the regime of pension service of state agents on retirement ;
• DecreeN° 77/495 of December 7, 1977, laying down conditions to create and run social protection private institutions.
At the institutional level, one can note the creation by Decree N°2005/160 of May 25, 2005 to organise the Ministry of Social Affairs with a Department of the Social Protection of Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons and a sub-department of the protection of persons with disabilities.
In addition, several actions for the protection of persons with disabilities have been carried out by the MINAS. These include the:
- Drafting of a National Policy Document for the protection and the promotion of older persons;
- Organisation of an international workshop on ageing in Yaounde with the support of Help Age International (from September 11 to September 13, 2006);
- Process of collecting data on older persons and the retired for the drafting of a national policy document on ageing and a table of competence on the elderly (May 30, 2008);
- Holding of 04 inter-regional consultation workshops (Ebolowa, Garoua, Bafoussam and Limbe), for the putting in place of a policy on the protection and welfare of older persons and the drafting of a National Action Plan;
- Yearly organisation of the selection of the best works for the realisation of the Past and Future Great Encyclopedia.
- Granting of subsidies to private social welfare institutions, associations and NGOs for the elderly; Granting of multiple assistance to older persons (financial, material, psychological, etc);
- Support for income-generating projects for autonomy and re-conversion of older persons;
- Granting of material, medical or financial aids to indigent or poor older persons within the framework of aids and reliefs;
- Drafting and publication of the "Guide pour un vieillissement sain et actif" (Guide on Healthy and Active Ageing), in order to ensure a harmonious society for all ages.
In addition, many other ministerial departments provide various supports to older persons such as: MINJUSTICE, MINATD, MINSANTE, MINPROFF, MINDEF/ONACAM, MINADER, MINEPIA, MINDHU, MINREX, MINTSS/CNPS, MINFI, MINTP, MINCOM, MINCOMMERCE, MINEE, MINEFOP, MINAC, MINJEC, MINSEP, MINESEC, MINESUP et MINDCAF.
Within the framework of the continuation of the implementation of the recommendations of the Forum on National Solidarity, four main priority actions are envisaged. They will be added to actions carried out in conformity with the traditional tasks assigned to MINAS. These include the:
1. Implementation of the National Policy for the protection and promotion of older persons;
2. Fight against emergent phenomenon of abandoned older persons;
3. Capacity building of Associations, NGOs and Private Social Concerns delivering care to older persons;
4. Development of partnership and advocacy and mobilisation of resource;
5. Experimentation of the Project of the Third Age University (Intergenerational meetings)
6. Capacity Building of social stakeholders ;
7. Operationnalisation of the following notions : « Rebirth Village » , « never without my grandmother ; never without my grandfather »;
8. Drafting and publication of the "Guide pour un vieillissement sain et actif", (Guide on Healthy and Active Ageing), tome II.