Imagine what it would feel like to be old and unable to take care of yourself – perhaps you’re unwell, not thinking as clearly as you used to, your eyesight and hearing are failing, you have no money for food or accommodation and no way to make money to feed yourself. You’ve lost contact with your friends and family or they are unwilling or unable to help you.
The elderly used to have a special place in society and were valued for their experience and knowledge but many are finding themselves in an almost impossible and very sad situation. Perhaps the saddest part is their feeling of loneliness, isolation, helplessness and humiliation.
There are a myriad of factors that have contributed to the worsening plight of the elderly. Family structures that used to provide care and attention have broken down across all spectrums of society. Some had their life savings wiped out in the financial disaster of 2008 and 2009. Families have split up due to economic pressure and many of the younger family members have left the country trying to find work in the Diaspora. Migrant workers who came from neighbouring countries to work on the farms or in the mines have lost contact with their families in other countries. HIV/AIDS has wiped out a huge section of the population – precisely the age group that would have been bread winners – many elderly are now facing the added burden of trying to care for their grandchildren. Government grants to the elderly are around $15 per month but are only paid sporadically so individuals and institution that care for the elderly are totally reliant on donations and good will. In our increasingly tight economy even these meagre resources are drying up.
The Society for the Destitute Aged (SODA) is one of the organisations formed to help alleviate the plight of the aged. In the sixties a group of businessmen – John Njerere, Chris Kabasa (still a member of the Committee), George Charambarara and others realised that there were neglected, aged people living in backyards, the railway station and some just on the streets. They started collecting food and clothing to give to these destitute elderly people. Eventually the Municipality gave 6.5 ha of land in Highfields for accommodation. Over the years donations have enabled the Home to run and to be self sufficient with home grown vegetables. Residents who are able to garden are allowed to use small plots to grow produce which they sell locally to provide themselves with small amounts of ‘pocket money’. Contact SODA through Servious Mujere 0772 409 281 or email [email protected]
Another organisation that assists the elderly is Meals on Wheels. It’s volunteer run and relies largely on support from corporates like Innscor and Servcor. Food is prepared in the kitchens at Athol Evans and cooked meals are delivered twice a week to the elderly in need. Get involved: [email protected]
HelpAge Zimbabwe was established in 1989 as a non-governmental agency working with and for older persons throughout Zimbabwe. Through effective fundraising it promotes, develops and supports community based initiatives. Apart from their advocacy work, they also try to assist the elderly with their medical needs and with income generating projects. They have a walk-in programme once a week where the elderly can get food and clothing. They are appealing for donations in the form of cash, food, clothing, blankets, furniture, old fridges, soap, beds, mattresses, magazines, cutlery and crockery, cooking pots – just about anything! To make a donation contact Priscilla on 0773 057 548 or email [email protected] or [email protected]
The Lions Club of Hatfield is organising a special Christmas lunch for the elderly destitute. It’s a regular annual event to bring a bit of cheer into their lives. This year it was held at The Book Cafe on the 8th December. If you’d still like to help out call Jackie Silva on 777832/4/5 or cell 0712 403 747 or [email protected]
Lions Club of Nora Valley is also arranging a Christmas lunch for the elderly – they do other lunches and outings a few times a year, like at Easter and on other holidays when the elderly feel particularly neglected. They collect old spectacles to re-distribute to those in need and they’re looking for hearing aids too. Contact Mike Molyneaux 744789.
SOAP – Save Our Aged People – delivers food boxes once a month to around 190 people in Harare. It’s a voluntary organisation that relies entirely on donations from the public and from some corporates. Each box contains some fruit and vegetables, chicken, rice, pasta and a bag of dry goods like porridge and tinned food. There are around 30 people that do the deliveries, each person going to only 3 or 4 recipients, so that they can spend a little time having tea and a chat. To find out more about how you can help contact Deleen on 861233 or 0772 354 603 or email [email protected]
Waterfalls Old Age Home will be hosting a Christmas lunch on the 21st December at the home. Waterfalls Trust is a ‘B’ scheme home where the elderly are supposed to be able to take care of themselves – bath, dress and maintain themselves. The residents rely heavily on donations and welfare organisations particularly for medical expenses, funeral policies and frail care. To volunteer or to make a donation call Debbie Victor 0772 603 847 or email [email protected]
Some of the other organisations that provide residential support, nursing care and most importantly a feeling of belonging are Athol Evans (117 Chiremba Road, call 742581, 742596) Nazareth House (149 Enterprise Road, call 495144) Fairways (Bodle Avenue, Eastlea, call 703243) and B.S. Leon Retirement Village (Monavale Road, Monavale, call 304366 or 336974). B.S. Leon has their ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ project where you can sponsor a resident or residents. To find out more email [email protected].
Let’s remember the true spirit of Christmas this year and spare a thought for the elderly and the needy among us.
Photo: Hannah Mentz