Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Polemical Health: Care of the Elderly

“A society that does not value its older people denies its roots and endangers its future. Let us strive to enhance their capacity to support themselves for as long as possible and, when they cannot do so anymore, to care for them”, Nelson Mandela. Caring for the elderly is a major issue for both the government and individuals in many societies. While some government provide facilities and means to cater for their elderly population, others are left at the mercy of their family members or abandoned to themselves.

Old age is that unavoidable stage in life where many people are afraid to. Reaching an advanced age in life is considered as a blessing and a privilege by many today especially in Africa, (as a result of premature death, caused by illnesses and social and political problems) many people are afraid to get there. This because of the many challenges and inconveniences that characterises it.  Old age is characterised by; physical decline, sagging skin, wrinkles, cognitive disorder, health problems, and many others. Most people at this stage in life, especially those between 65 and above suffer a great deal when left on their own because they are in most cases, incapable of taking care of themselves.

The population of many Countries around the world, such as Japan, Germany, Italy and many others, is dominated by elderly people; considered non-productive, useless and expensive, who in most cases do not have children or families to care for them. With this increase in the number of old people, many governments, and private individuals open retirement homes and homes for the elderly, where these people can receive subsidized or fully paid help.

A retirement home is any privately owned or government facility designed to accommodate individuals in their senior years. It is meant for those who wish to maintain their lifestyles, while receiving care and support. While retirement and nursing homes are the best options for some elderly people, some are unable to enjoy such services at their old age because of the lack of funds. This is because retirement homes and the services they offer are quite expensive.

Challenges Faced by Elderly People in Retirement Homes.

Nevertheless, living in a retirement home is not all milk and honey. Residents of retirement homes are usually faced with many challenges, which are in most cases beyond their control. One of the most difficult thing old people have to deal with is loneliness. Retirement coincide with the period in life where children get married and move out of their parents’ life to form their own families. Being alone is difficult to cope with, especially when one had a loud and busy life. While old age is the ideal time to spend with family and friends, they may live far, or may be too busy with their daily activities. This loneliness and social isolation leads to withdrawal and depression which is detrimental to the physical, emotional and mental well-being of elderly people. Lonely old people lack the motivation to carry out activities and exercises that keep them physically active. Leading an active life at old age reduces the risk of falls which may lead to minor or severe injuries.

The African Context of Retirement Homes.

The perception of the elderly people in Africa is totally different from that of the rest of the world. They are looked upon as wise men and women, and bearers cultural and traditional values which are to be eventually passed on to the younger generations, thus very useful in the education of children.

Many people in Africa, both young and old consider retirement homes as a taboo. This is because it is believed that it is the duty of the child to take care of her parents when they are old; a way of given back the care she was given as a child. In this light, many elderly people after retirement (for those who had the opportunity to work) move in with their children, when they are no longer able to care for themselves. This can be quite challenging, as many people lack the means and time for the additional mouth to feed and care for, coupled with financial difficulties.

Also, a greater number of elderly people in Africa live in the rural areas, and most of them categorically refuse to leave their villages and community lifestyles to visit or live with their children in the urban areas, not to talk of living in a retirement home. The elderly people in Africa are unusually stronger and boast of better health, than those from other parts of the world. This is usually attributed to their mode of life and eating habits; as the live on more natural and “bio” products and are closer to nature, and far from pollution.

Unlike developed western countries, many African countries do not have many retirement facilities; retirement benefits, social security benefits and retirement homes. Those that are available are very expensive and poorly managed in most cases. Most Africans do not have the means to pay for their services and their children or family members have barely enough to take care of their own families. Those who succeed to send their parents or old relatives to retirement homes end up abandoning them there, not because they wish to, but because they lack the means to sustain them in these homes. As a result most old people live in misery and loneliness, which kills them faster that some illnesses.

AFRIC  Editorial Article.


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