My name is Apeu Sabastian, I am 78 and from Karenga District, Uganda, I am an Older Person District Leader.

One day in 2020 I felt pain on the left side of my chest. It was during the pandemic when older people were advised not to use public transport and to stay home.

I took some local herbs but the pain only got worse. When lockdown restrictions were eased, I visited a local clinic which referred me to my local Health Centre. I was examined and referred to the District hospital.

On the day of my hospital appointment, it was relatively cold so I wore a jacket. When it was my turn to have my blood pressure taken, the nurse put the monitor over my jacket. I asked, “Nurse, how are you going to get the correct reading?” She looked annoyed and replied, “Look, I’m in a hurry, the doctor will be leaving soon.”

When the doctor examined me, she put the stethoscope to my chest without first unbuttoning my shirt and told me “You are very old, and your heart is old too.” She only wrote a referral to the local hospital. I was not given any medication. The hospitals in my District keep telling us that there are no drugs.

When I connect it to what I learned about ageism in the Alliance for Advocacy meeting that was organized for Special Interest Groups by Uganda Reach the Aged Association (URAA) and supported by National Endowment for Democracy in Kotido in May 2023 that I realised that I had experienced ageism.

I now know that just because I am old does not mean I do not have the right to health, I was discriminated against because of my age.”, I am happy that during another similar meeting also organized by URAA – the Social Accountability meeting – where the DHO gave us a talk I learnt, I can report such cases through our Council for Older Persons, I can also directly report to the District Health Officer of my District who promised to act and address the issue as well as raise awareness in our community.

The devastation caused by the pandemic hit older people hard, and we need all the support we can get. Campaigns and activities targeting older people will benefit all who have experienced COVID-19 and other Health Challenges but still face systemic ageism.

I have immensely benefited from all the programmes that URAA offered us. Voiceless older people are being empowered to fight all forms of discrimination and abuse.

Story compiled by Were Wataga Emmanuel Fred, Head of Programmes – URAA

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