Monday, December 12, 2011

This is Oyiboland - Where 70 is the new 40

Ginger: Hi Doc. How was your day today?
Doctor Z: Busy and funny too. The youngest patient i saw came to complain about her Mom who lives with her. She said her Mom was driving her bonkers.
The joke - She is 72. Her mom is 94.

If you go to the bus station at off peak periods (between 10am-1pm), the white brigade as I fondly call them make up the majority of passengers. The men in their black or brown coats; the ladies well powdered in their sweaters, pleated skirts and Clark shoes. The women remind me so much of my mom. Now I understand some of her 'odd' habits which seemed so out of place while growing up: Mom was a sweater and pleated skirt, hair in curlers, lipstick, tea and biscuits-in-all-weathers type. I guess those were habits picked when she was in the UK that never wore off.
I always have a big smile when I meet the White Brigade. They are usually a very friendly are not careful and a talkative gets you in his/her clutches, you might find it hard to extricate yourself.  But more than that..they make aging something to look forward to. They have lived 70+years on earth. You want to sit at their feet and hear their adventures.
 I am also filled with admiration sometimes. When I see that old man struggling to take that next step with his walker. I smile at the effort he makes to stay alive. I smile at the government, the society that allows them to age gracefully. S/he has his pensioner bus tickets that allows him ride free, S/he has disabled parking if needed. S/he has homes with basic amenities that are helpful as bones get stiffer (running taps, showers, microwaves, waist length gas cookers, washing machines). And when s/he is tired she can move on to a home (subsidised by the govt or paid for in full). Care work is a popular job among immigrants but it also represents the importance the society places on making them live as independently and gracefully as possible.

The Nigerian consensus has always been that Western society do not take care of their old like we do etc etc. Surely we have all heard the horrible stories of aged men/women who were dead for over 4 days in their apartment before their frozen bodies were discovered or of parents in Care homes who never get visited by their kids. And we would say, 'that could never happen in Nigeria'. 'Neighbours would have checked in on her, infact there's no way s/he would have been on her own cos one of the kids would have taken her into her home' etc etc.
But I wished to look at this from a different angle. As much as i admire our sense of community in Nigeria, I've also come to appreciate the independence I see among the elderly here, and wonder at some of the things we take for granted back home...that our mothers will drop their personal schedules to come babysit, wash and cook for 'OUR' families even in cold wintry UK/US.

Don't we have parents who want to spend their old age enjoying the new phase of their life/marriage after raising 7 kids? Maybe they want to travel together, start a new hobby, join a social club etc. Knotchocolates even blogged about 'over 60s getting it on' and if you've ever visited Blog mom's page, you'd know age is nothing but a number but in Nigeria we tend to think our parents - esp moms, become asexual by 60.
While the majority don't mind becoming occupational grannys i am writing for the sake of those who prefer to see their kids and family thrice in a year not 345 days a year. i think we kids should try and be a bit more understanding and stop laying the guilt or worse...refuse to care for them (money matters) cause she is not fulfilling her 'grandma' quota.
Babysitting sadly is the least of the problems the aged face. Some are abandoned by their kids. forgotten, mistreated, labelled witches/wizards, left to beg for food. For some their kids thither over paying for their healthcare and/or necessary surgeries and are left to die alone.
And how about the absence of running water, electricity, kerosene stoves which make it nigh impossible for an aged person to be independent. Really sad.

Have you had to deal with elderly parents, relatives or friends. What thoughts about aging did it inspire in you?

p.s. My maternal grandma spent the last 20 yrs (75-95)of her life with us. She and her only kid my mom had their ups and downs but it was mostly peaceful co-habiting. On the other hand, in retrospect I think we her grandkids tolerated her mostly..and found her amusing at best.
p.p.s. Maybe I find it easy to wag my finger cos I am not expecting babysitting duties from my mom. In her hay days her 'omugwo' visits to my siblings never lasted for more than 10 days cause she was working. Now she is definitely too old for that kinda stress. Yeah I know I am on my own #notscared.

omugwo - is a tradition amongst Eastern Nigerians wherein the maternal grandma comes to help her daughter care for the newborn grandchild. Her visit has precedence cause mothers are expected  to be more helpful to their daughters than a mother-in-law.
In Western Nigeria, the paternal grandma's visit has more precedence since the child belongs to the family.
Visits can be as short as a week or as long as 6months :(

p.p.s Shoutout to my new followers. I can't believe I've finally passed the 100 followers mark (dances a jig!)
Also thank you for all the comments in the last post. That post was a bit personal though i didnt let on :). Well, lets see....


  1. I respect Indians when it comes to taking care of their old and family. My own mother can visit me after childbirth, but that woman would not even send me to come take care of a child for me.

  2. This is the way i see 'omugwo'; I and my mum spending some time together. Seriously, she doesn't even have to do anything if she doesnt want to. I had the priveledge to be with my maternal grandmother for a while before she died. She had been an independent woman. She thought me quite a lot. Oyibo people take care of their senior citizens in a way i really admire. A poor person here in Naija cannot take care of his old folks because he cannot afford the hospital bills, medications and special nutrition which is what they really need not loads of people saying 'sorry' all the time.

  3. I wasn't comfortable when my maternal granny stayed with us...the generation gap was too wide. At times she talked about issues I cared less about. I don't see me doing that if I eventually have kids.

  4. My maternal grandmother lived with us and took care of the kids from the time I was 12 until I left home at 17. She and my mother were headstrong and argumentative women. I would never wish to live with my children. Different cultures view it in different ways. Both have their advantages.

    Congratulations on the 100! Next thing you know, it'll be 1,000. Wooo Wooo!

  5. I get your perspective Ginger but I tell you the dream of every African grandmother is to see her kids and grandkids often. When you said, " As much as i admire our sense of community in Nigeria, I've also come to appreciate the independence I see among the elderly here"... Sometimes what we call independence is actually isolation and I tell you, nothing is as depressing as being isolated. People who work at care homes will tell you those people are often abandoned there by their families. I dont think a Nigerian grandma would pray for you if you leave her in a carehome.. my own opinion.

    - LDP

  6. I think the cultures are different, and none is inherently better than the other. The old people here expect a more carefree and isolated retirement, our own parents may be the opposite. I wish any old person what they desire, be it travel or family.

  7. I tell you I cannot wait to grow old too.My mother keeps telling me that I am an 'anu mpama' wishing my life away but I beg to differ. I know that when I am older, a lot of things will cease to matter because I will simply not let them/I will be old so I can be as gobby as I like and speak my mind even more than I do now and not care about the consequences. I will also do the old people cruises (to laugh at the 'old people') and all kinds of non-elderly stuff.

    I hear you on the omugwo too. My mother stayed for six weeks and my life was bliss but then she sat me down to say that she was glad I was handling motherhood very well because they had called her to invigilate some medical students and she was gone. She wouldn't even let us take her to the airport because that was just 'nonsense sentimentality'. I was happy that she came but I was even happier she went as she did because it showed her eyes were firmly on her own life, not on ours. It's reassuring that she still thinks highly of herself not to want to borrow borrow.
    This post is on point. 10/10. Very Good.

  8. It is not fair when people attach taking care of their parents on the condition that they take care of their kids. Yes Grannies just love their grand- kids but they shouldnt be burdened with taking care of them when we see they are not able. And for those who want to enjoy doing other things, please they should be allowed. As for having parents live with you in their old age, it all depends on the people involved whether there will be friction or not. All said,I kinda like the independence the old people over here have.

  9. 1)Yay on crossing the 100 followers mark. What is taking pple dat long to follow? ur blog is amazing and insightful#4real

    2)well, my maternal grandma was very 'businessy' and independent. She was der for the grandma duties but was straight back to biz after that. She liked doing stuff behind her kids backs particularly when she knew they would not approve and she refused to live with any of them but got helps instead. Long story. She died last year tho and i miss her like crazy.

    p.s: so we shuld be expecting some "mixed blessings" ko? #cantwait

  10. The elderly can age gracefully if they have the means to do so. Many have great retirement income and can travel but some don't and live hand to mouth. I am talking about the US. I worked in a nursing home and I say it is about 50/50. Some kids are very attentive and visit some just dump them and visit once a year or so. Makes me weep sometimes. I just want to be healthy enough to be independent when I get old. Kids or no kids.



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