CHALLENGES FACED BY OLDER PERSONS REVEALED AT ACTIVE AGEING PROGRAMME

Ms Nomsa Hlongwane, KwaZulu-Natal’s Deputy Chairperson for Senior Citizen Forum who presented on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) on Older Persons pleaded with the government to strengthen gender-based violence awareness sessions by fostering collaborations with other stakeholders, including civil society organisations.
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By Precious Mupenzi

  • Older persons, despite being economically inactive, serve as vital breadwinners in many households, particularly in rural areas, where they are often caregivers for orphaned grandchildren.
  • The dialogue sessions at the Active Ageing Programme uncovered disturbing instances of older persons facing cruelty and inhumane treatment from various quarters, including community members, gangs, witch doctors, and even family members.
  • Key issues discussed during the programme included the need for standardised funding for services to older persons, government planning to address the growing older population, gender-based violence affecting older persons, and the protection of older individuals, especially women and those with disabilities.

Older persons are not economically active but remain active breadwinners through their grants as the main sources of income in many households (second-time parents) for orphaned grandchildren), especially in rural areas.

Over and above this, older persons are subjected to cruel, inhumane treatment by community members, gangs, mobs, witch doctors, traditional leaders and family members. Those alleged to be witches or wizards are victims of jungle justice, extrajudicial killings and disappearance.

This was revealed on the first day of the Active Ageing Programme/Golden Games currently taking place at Hoerskool Nelspruit, Mpumalanga from 21st to 22nd March 2024.

The day kicked off with dialogues featuring significant discussions on various topics concerning issues faced by older persons. These discussions covered areas such as standardising funding for services to older persons, coherent government planning in response to the growth of the older population, gender-based violence affecting older persons, and the protection of older persons, with a focus on women and individuals with disabilities.

Disposal of household effects or other properties belonging to older persons without their consent, access to decent shelter, and access to essential healthcare were some of the issues raised by older persons during the dialogue session.

The event was attended by the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Ntshalintshali, Dr Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, MEC for Social Development Mpumalanga, Executive Mayor of Mbombela Municipality, Cllr Sibongile Makhushe-Mazibuko, Kgoshi Mokoena.

Ms Nomsa Hlongwane, KwaZulu-Natal’s Deputy Chairperson for Senior Citizen Forum who presented on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) on Older Persons pleaded with the government to strengthen gender-based violence awareness sessions by fostering collaborations with other stakeholders, including civil society organisations.

“The Department of Justice need to give perpetrators harsher sentences. The empowerment and protection of older persons particularly women in deep rural areas and townships is critical. There is a need for an ongoing education and training of older persons.”

Central to the presentation was that older persons face a greater risk of physical and psychological abuse due to discriminatory societal attitudes, disrespect and disregard for the human rights of older women, adding that female older persons are discriminated against when reporting GBV cases in the South African Police Service.

Within the broader conversation around witchcraft, culture and ageing Deputy Minister of Social Development, Dr Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu called upon South Africans to respect and protect the rights of older persons.

“Many older persons suffering from Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease are often labelled as witches due to what is perceived to be strange behaviour and the lack of understanding of the disease, especially in rural and farm areas. In several instances, older persons are accused of witchcraft and the accused are tortured, persecuted, or made to leave their communities and may even be killed,” concludes Bogopane-Zulu.

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