By Mumtaz Saley Moosa
A few years ago, as I travelled to China, the cold streets were lined with homeless people, and sadly almost all of them were in their twilight years. It broke my heart to think that these people sleeping on the bitterly cold concrete floor had at some stage contributed to society in some way. Yet, here they are today, just waiting for death.
I had forgotten about this memory until recently when a Facebook user asked why families are no longer helping grandparents do simple things such as banking or so on. I realised that we might not have a lot of older adults sleeping in the streets, but we in South Africa do have a lot of aged people who sadly still have to fend for themselves.
In my area, I find elders who live alone and often have to hitch-hike to get groceries; most live solely on the State pension they receive, while others get a little more from their family members, who can assist. It is sad to have an older person approach you, asking for R2 as they are short for a ride home as they are tired, can’t afford a taxi ride or don’t know how to use a taxi.
Older people in South Africa living alone or in nursing homes are lonely and are forgotten by most. The sad reality is that many family members tend only to remember their parents or grandparents regarding money or inheritance.
Many of our elders lived difficult lives; they worked to feed the kids and educate them, hoping to enjoy their golden years. Sadly, golden years begin to feel lost and worthless as they remain alone, watching as the world goes by, with little concern for them.
How can we fix this as a society?
It takes a village to raise a child; where are the people of the village who need to reciprocate?
If we can’t take care of them today, we should not be expected to be cared for in our golden years.