Government should rethink age limit for elderly

Assistance. The elderly being ferried on wheelbarrows to receive their senior citizen grant under the government Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment programme in Napak District on September 4. PHOTO BY STEVEN ARIONG

It was revealed that government is planning to raise the age limit for older persons benefiting from the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE), from the current 60 to 80 years beginning financial year 2019/2020.

The reason government gives is supposedly to help it reach out to older persons as they plan to roll out SAGE to the entire country.

During the second annual Social Development Sector review report launched in Kampala this week it was revealed that, SAGE has since its inception, benefited 178,984 out of the targeted 194,808 older persons in 47 districts across the country.

According to government, there are currently about 3.2 million Ugandans aged 60 and above and the funds available cannot be enough to have all of them enrolled on the programme hence the need to raise the eligibility age with hope to cover the whole country.

The 60-year limit to secure the social assistance grant was initially well thought out by government.

However, the shift of goal posts by government regarding this age limit to qualify for SAGE is not premised on good faith, to say the least.
For formal employment, the minimum age of retirement in Uganda is 55 years and for some sectors, it goes up to 65.

According to the latest World Health Organization data published in 2018, life expectancy in Uganda is, for male 60.2, while female is 64.8 years, giving us an average life expectancy of 62.5.

Therefore, in raising the SAGE age limit to 80, government may be planning to actually pay no one the benefit because the life expectancy of the country falls far below the new SAGE limit, hence locking out the would-be beneficiaries.

At 80 years, one is at the very evening of their life, with many ailing away either in their homes or hospitals, so they cannot enjoy, so to say, the Shs25,000.

If the rationale for SAGE is to help the elderly in buying food, healthcare and educating their grandchildren, it’s good it comes when the older persons are still in control of their wits to allocate the money well, at least to their benefit.

But pushing the limit to 80 is more or less saying we pay very few, keep the rest perpetually impoverished, and they die before they make 80, and, therefore, miss the assistance completely.

Government should rethink raising elderly age limit, otherwise the intention for which it was set up will defeat its purpose.