This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on issues of aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on October 6, 2016. There are a limited number of tickets left. Don’t miss this unforgettable event! Purchase online or stop by our office at 105 King Creek Blvd, Hendersonville, NC.
SOUTH AFRICA’S ELDERLY POPULATION TO DOUBLE BY 2050
by Patti Digh
South Africa’s elderly population is projected to double by 2050, according to a report released recently. Presently, the number of South Africans 60 years or older is around 4.209 million people. In 2050, this figure will rise to 10.06 million people. In the whole of the African continent, by 2050, the number of people over 60 will increase from just under 50 million to just under 200 million.
More than half of elderly people in South Africa live in extended households, but that’s changing with an upward trend in the prevalence of elderly single-member households (a huge increase from 16.3% in 1996 to 26.7% in 2011) and urbanization.
In fact, South Africa has a number of unique circumstances that affect the structure and situation of families. They include its history of apartheid, and particularly the migrant labor system. Poverty also greatly affects family life, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic has profoundly affected the health and well-being of family members, consequently placing an added burden on children and the elderly.
In South Africa in 2008, there were 859,000 “double orphans” (children both of whose parents have died), 2,468,000 paternal orphans, and 624,000 maternal orphans. A total of 3.95 million children had lost one or both parents by 2008, an increase of about a third since 2002. The number of double orphans increased by 144%. Although the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa has stabilised, and the infection rate is now starting to decline, the number of orphans will continue to grow or at least remain high for years, reflecting a time lag between HIV infection and death.
What does this have to do with aging? The contribution of the elderly is especially important in countries with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence, such as South Africa, where many older people head what are called skip-generation households because the middle generation has died or become very sick from HIV/AIDS. Around 30 percent of older women in Sub-Saharan Africa head skip-generation households, according to the WHO. In some countries, the figures are even higher. In African countries outside South Africa, this is also true: more than four out of ten orphans are cared for by their grandmothers in Tanzania, and in Zimbabwe it is around six in ten.
In rural KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, the country in the region with both the highest proportion of old people and one of the severest AIDS epidemics. almost one in three older people are either now caring for sick adults living in the household or are raising grandchildren whose own parents are either dead or away in the cities on a long-term basis, seeking work.
One project in KwaZulu-Natal works with over 25,000 older people who are nursing their infected children and raise their grandchildren. Through information and training they learn about infection risks and the best care. They are enabled to help other affected people and overcome their own isolation. The elderly people are also supported materially: They receive sufficient food supplies, clothing and items that they need to take care of their sick relatives. The grandchildren get books, school uniforms, and other items the need for their education.
Another project supports these silent heroes: “Kwa Wazee” grants pensions to 1,000 grandmothers with 600 grandchildren. The project also advocates the formation of discussion groups that enable old people to help one another psychosocially and financially. The pensions increase the quality of life for elderly women and their grandchildren immensely, enabling them to buy food, clothes and other needed items. The nutritional situation stabilizes, the children can go to school again, and the grandmothers develop a greater feeling of self-esteem. The project also contributes to a national debate about improved old age security.