In a powerful speech during the United Nations International Day of Older Persons 2023 celebrations at Segera Mission, Laikipia County, First Lady Rachel Ruto highlighted the crucial role of families in supporting older members of society.
Acknowledging that families are the basic unit of life, the First Lady stressed that it is within the family that older citizens find strength and security, ensuring balanced social and mental well-being.
Represented by Julius Suubi, an advisor in her office, First Lady Rachel Ruto described older people as an invaluable segment of the population who act as a bridge between the wisdom of the past and the energy of the future.
The event, held at Segera Mission, aimed to fulfil the promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for older persons across generations.
With an estimated 2.7 million older people in Kenya, representing 6% of the population, the majority live in rural areas. These older people face many challenges, including poverty, elder abuse, discrimination, limited access to opportunities and a lack of employment and income-generating projects.
Changing family structures due to rural-urban migration have affected traditional social protection systems for the elderly.
The First Lady commended the plans of the Ministry of Social Protection and Senior Citizens’ Affairs and praised the initiative to increase the number of beneficiaries of the cash transfer programme.
Currently benefiting one million senior citizens, an additional 500,000 will receive assistance to ease some of their daily financial burdens.
In her advocacy, First Lady Rachel Ruto urged families to enrol elderly members in the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) to ensure easy access to essential medical care.
She also encouraged families to honour their elders by planting fruit trees, a symbol of life, vitality and the enduring bond between generations.
The First Lady emphasised the importance of intentional family and community moments that encourage meaningful interactions between the young and the elderly, highlighting the benefits of fostering understanding, compassion and a shared sense of heritage between different age groups.
She also called on the National Assembly and County Assemblies to enact laws aimed at making Kenya a safe country for older people, emphasising the need for societal policies that protect the dignity and well-being of older people.