The elderly in Africa – a silent and forgotten generation

Ageing baby boomers around the world are demanding decent care and support but the elderly in Africa are mostly silent and suffering. Not only do most of them live in poverty but many have also been forced to become the main caregivers of children orphaned by HIV, Aids and TB, or political strife and upheaval. Even the more affluent elderly are often abandoned and discarded in old-age homes to live out their lives alone and forgotten or neglected and abused by the very people who should take care of them. Their silent cries are echoed in Psalms 71:9: “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength fails.”

The awareness campaign

It was with the above in mind that Go Turquoise for the Elderly, a non-profit campaign run by volunteers, launched a community-based initiative in line with government policy which states that communities need to look after their own elderly. The campaign is now included in the list of national awareness campaigns administered by the Department of Health. This means that the government also acknowledges its importance.

The main aim of the Go Turquoise for the Elderly campaign is to help create a new awareness about the plight of the elderly and what individuals, families, organisations and society can do to honour, revere and help their elderly lead dignified, healthy and secure lives. By selling turquoise items, organisations, homes for the aged, congregations, etc. also get the opportunity to generate funds to support the elderly in their own communities.

Go Turquoise

From 15 May (International Family Day) to 15 June (World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day) all South Africans are called upon to wear turquoise coloured clothing and display ribbons and other items in turquoise wherever possible. Various communities will host events for the elderly and drive initiatives to promote awareness. Here are some examples:

  • Go Turquoise for the Elderly kicks off in Pretoria with the laser mapping (by LaserX) of the Voortrekker Monument from 19:00 to 23:00 on 15 May. Pretorians are invited to look out for this spectacular display in turquoise. From 16 May, the Voortrekker Monument will be illuminated in turquoise for the remainder of the campaign. Then, on 20 May, the Voortrekker Monument, Corne’s Caterers and Help Seniors are hosting a free day of celebration for 300 older persons at the Monument. To book, call Anneke Liebenberg on 072 349 8395 or at admin@helpseniors.co.za.
  • Brooklyn Mall brings out its turquoise colours from 19 to 23 May, when various service providers will attend to the elderly at its Queenspark Court from 09:00 to 14:00 and visitors can find out how they can contribute to the wellbeing of the elderly. Visit www.goturquoise.co.za for more information.
  • Because “nobody can bake like my granny”, Menlyn Park Shopping Centre hosts a bake-off competition for persons older than 60 to show its support for the campaign. The winner can nominate an old-age home, retirement centre, service centre for the elderly, etc. for a library make-over sponsored by Menlyn Park. For more information, contact Chantal Hanekom, chantalh@primelife.co.za, 012 471 0600.
  • Doulos Community Project in Waverley, Pretoria makes a huge effort to support the campaign by decorating its premises in turquoise and raising funds for the elderly. For more information, contact Hans Janse van Rensburg on 012 755 8199 or at hans@armoedebediening.co.za.
  • In Polokwane, a number of older persons will be hosted by Bolivia Lodge at a special event on 20 May. More information is available from Piet van Waveren, boomskraappotties@gmail.com or 083 263 3326.

Show that you care

After all, the elderly are all someone’s flesh and blood, they are our parents and grandparents and they often long for a visit, a smile, a hug and a listening ear. Please help us give them back their dignity and make them feel loved!