New Era (Windhoek)

4 July 2012

Namibia: Abuse of the Elderly a Growing Phenomenon

The Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Petrina Haingura, has called on Namibians to stop seeing elders as a burden, but rather value their contribution to the development of the country.

Speaking at the recent celebration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) in Rundu, Haingura said older persons are an integral part of society because of their expertise and wisdom.

The day was celebrated under the theme: "My World, Your World, Our World - Free of Abuse".

"Throughout the world, the abuse and neglect of older persons is largely overlooked or treated as an unspoken problem. Unfortunately, no community or country in the world is immune from this costly public health and human crisis," she said.

Haingura cited the change in social and economic environment as the source of lack of respect and honour for elders in modern times.

"Old age is supposed to be the golden period of a person's life, characterized by enjoyment and satisfaction, but according to a World Report on Violence and Health of 2002 by the WHO, old age in many African countries is a nightmare, as the rights of older people are trampled on and violated in many ways," she said.

False accusations also form part of abuse since old people tend to be accused of witchcraft and end up living in isolation or being killed, she noted.

"There is a need to consider the mental needs of older persons, including those experiencing depression. With an increasing awareness about disability issues, we must also consider that persons with disabilities are living longer and have needs as they age," Haingura added.

At the same occasion, Governor of Kavango Region, Maurus Nekaro, noted that it is important to commemorate elders day because it serves as recognition of the mistreatment elders endure, while raising awareness on the abuse and neglect of elderly persons.

"Let me use this platform to express my dissatisfaction and concern about the elderly people who misuse their social grants for acquiring liquor, as well as those exploiting our elderly for profit reasons," Nekaro said.

He urged young parents to refrain from deliberately leaving their children with older persons but rather take care of their children themselves.

A mini survey conducted by the University of Namibia on Elderly Abuse revealed that 86 percent of the respondents were of the opinion that elderly abuse is a very serious problem; 81 percent of respondents indicated that elder abuse is an increasing problem, while 18 percent of the respondents said elderly abuse is not relevant in our society.

The survey also listed the frequency of the different kinds of abuse as follows: economic abuse (63 percent), neglect (54 percent), emotional abuse (53 percent), physical (22 percent), frequency of restraints (12 percent) and sexual abuse (9 percent).

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