Take better care of the elderly, experts advise
Manuel Ntoyai @Manuel_Ntoyai
Vidze Kaladze Vidze, who stars as Karisa in the film, The Letter, observes that there is more awareness regarding abuse of senior citizens.
He is, however, concerned that the coronavirus pandemic has slowed down efforts by activists, who continue to enlighten the world on the suffering of the elderly.
“There is still a lot we need to cover when it comes to highlighting plight of the elderly, because we know poverty plays a significant role when it comes to their abuse,” he says.
Currently, Karisa and his colleagues continue to hold forums to enlighten the public on the need to ensure greater attention to the well-being of the elderly.
So far, Karisa and his team have visited Ganze and Kaloleni constituencies, Rabai sub-county and Malindi town in Kilifi county, in their research on abuse of the aged.
The film highlights the life of Karisa’s grandmother, who has been accused of being a witch, a plight endured by many aged people in the country.
Kilifi county is amongst three top elder-abuse hotspots earmarked by the government through a situational analysis survey, followed by Kirinyaga and Kisii.
“Elder abuse continues to be a thorn in the flesh as a community, since many people do not understand the process of ageing and challenges that come with it,” says Karisa.
Abandoned Psychiatrist Lareatte Rota says while older persons prefer to spend their lives within their communities and families, a worrying trend today is the ease with which the community is willing to commit its old to institutions.
“This is something that was once considered a Western world thing, but has now crept upon us.
We are no longer taking care of the aged. Some people have completely left their parents in the rural areas where they live in poverty and neglect,” she says.
Rota says some common types of elder abuse include physical (inflicting physical discomfort, pain or injury), psychological (undermining identity, dignity and self-worth of older persons) neglect (failure of a caregiver to meet the needs of an older adult who is unable to meet those needs alone)and financial abuse, which includes misuse of money or property.
“Abuse can only be detected if care givers and community members are aware and knowledgeable about abuse and understand how to respond to these situations,” Rota adds.
Director Social Development at the State Department for Social Protection, Lissel Mogaka, says the main objective of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) in Kenya is to provide an opportunity for communities to raise awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting older persons that lead to elder abuse and neglect.
“The overall purpose of WEAAD events is to ensure older members of the society access justice.
This is because abuse and neglect largely remains under-recognised, or treated as an unspoken problem.
Many cases could be going unreported due to lack of awareness and additionally older persons who are exposed to abuse, in most cases, remain within the households and communities where they are being abused,” he says.
Already, there are policies to promote the well-being of the elderly, including the National Policy on Older Persons and Ageing, 2018 and the Social Protection Policy, 2011.
The National Asseembly waits to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People Right on the Rights of persons,which the Cabinet approved on February 25.
Parliament’s move comes as increased calls from activists heighten, asking for more commitment in creating awareness on the diversity and complexity of experiences across the lifespan and challenging harmful ageist stereotypes that validates elder abuse.
“One of the challenges we are facing is that we do not sufficient and refurbished centres to accommodate them and from an earlier survey, we established that we had 153 institutions, which were mostly faith-based, and in some counties we did not have any,” Mogaka says.
He adds: “ This is why we developed the National Standards and Guidelines on the Establishment and Management of institutions of older persons to regulate the registration and management of the institutions and improve the quality of services offered to them.”
To help address this, he says, the ministry has set up Kirinyaga Rescue Centre for older persons in Mwea as a model centre for others to benchmark.