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March 2021 1st edition

Celebrating our elders

Written by: Allison Cooper

International Day for Older Persons, held annually on 1 October during Social Development Month, celebrates our elders and their importance in our communities. Thembalami resident Bertha Aberman with Nursing Services Manager Paulina Namo.

According to Statistics South Africa’s July 2020 mid-year population estimates report, 5.43 million people in South Africa are over the age of 60. The country’s elderly growth rate rose from 1.1 percent (2002 to 2003) to three percent (2019 to 2020).

With a growing elderly population, their needs must take centre stage, including social assistance programmes and easy access to food programmes and healthcare. Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu recently highlighted this when she condemned violent crimes against senior citizens and called the public to care for and protect them. 

Caring for the elderly

Nursing Services Manager Paulina Namo (62) has been caring for the elderly at Thembalami Care Centre, in Lombardy East, for 35 years.

“I love my residents. My granny was my mentor. I learnt a lot from her and appreciate the upbringing, life values and the wisdom of older people,” she says.

Namo, who holds a Primary Health Care Diploma from the University of the Witwatersrand, says the biggest lesson she has learnt from her work is the need to listen.

“Our elders need to be acknowledged for the contributions they have made to society and our economy. They are valued members of our community and we need to make sure that they know this,” she says.

Namo’s advice to younger generations is to respect their elders. “Give them a platform and let them be heard. If you no longer have a grandparent, adopt one in your community. This doesn’t have to be a financial commitment. You can spend time with and talk to them or help them get to the shops or church. Make them feel worthwhile and important.”

It’s also important to:

  • Leave their furniture where it is. Moving things can cause confusion.
  • Cook what they love to eat. 
  • Keep them active in the community. 
  • Spend more time with and learn from them. 
  • Always respect their choices. African grannies, for example, don’t like to go out without anything on their head or a shawl around their shoulders, as they see this is a sign of respect.

Stop elder abuse

Many people abuse the elderly, sometimes without knowing it.

“Sadly, some elders are bribed for their pension. This is cruel and sad. Even though they have little, they want to contribute to society. When this happens, they don’t have a voice and can become withdrawn,” says Namo.

She adds that looking after young children all day can be tiring, especially if the grandparent has health problems. 

Apply for an Older Person’s Grant

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pays a monthly Older Person’s Grant to over three million people.

Elders who meet certain criteria, including being 60 and older and not receiving any other social grant, can apply.

For more information about how to apply, visit SASSA’s website at www.sassa.gov.za and click on social grants.