Media Reports
Report gives details of shocking plight of elderly

By Lynne Altenroxel

According to a report by the committee probing abuse of the elderly, an estimated 80% of the elderly have no income other than their social pension, with about 2-million people receiving pensions from the state. Called “Mothers and fathers of the nation: the forgotten people”, the report describes the lack of service delivery to the elderly as “a crisis” and abuse of the elderly as “the best kept secret of modern times”.

It tells of homes for the elderly that stink of urine and where residents share clothes, facecloths and toothbrushes; how the elderly in state homes receive R3 “pocket money” a month, or nothing; how some living on their own are dying from malnutrition and neglect; and how those in institutions are given sub-standard food.

The issue of social security, which has been the subject of the two commissions, in 1996 and 1998, with little achieved, receives the most coverage.

“In the course of its investigations, this committee collected a large amount of evidence of the cruelty which many elderly people experience….the loudest cry to reach the committee concerned the treatment pensioners receive at pension paypoints.”

It describes the present payment system, which sometimes sees pensioners sleeping at paypoints to avoid the queues, as “unacceptable” and recommends that it be phased out.

Some of the report’s findings are that there is still a huge disparity between services offered to white and black elderly South Africans; the elderly are increasingly having to assume responsibility for Aids orphans; they are increasingly targeted by HIV-positive rapists; admission to most registered homes depends on ability to pay additional fees, excluding those with only an old-age pension; and the high level of theft in homes.

The Johannesburg Star
Monday, March 26, 2001