‘Neighbourhood Friends’ is working to support the elderly in Cape Town by walking door-to-door to check on them, making sure they are healthy and supported.
Cape Town, South Africa (29 September 2021) – ‘Neighbourhood Friends’ have become saviours for many disempowered senior citizens in Cape Town’s township. These fieldworkers, called Umelwanes in isiXhosa, walk door-to-door, searching for elders in need of support.
With many older persons being bedridden and alone, accessing help can be nearly impossible, so these ‘Neighbourhood Friends’ perform a life-saving function.
The Ikamva Labantu Non-Profit Organisation spearheads the Umelwane Project. The initiative forms part of their Senior Citizens’ programme, headed up by Lulama Sigasana. Senior Clubs also play a vital role in addressing the cognitive stimulation, health and nutrition of the elderly, but these are currently closed due to Covid-19.
The Umelwane team is made up of fieldworkers, nurses and social workers. Together they provide an essential safety net to support both frail older persons and their caregivers – this includes facilitating regular health check-ups, delivery of chronic medication, and assistance in getting to and from the clinic.
Instead of enjoying their twilight years and reaping the benefits of their longevity, seniors often face a wide range of challenges. This includes abuse by their grandchildren and the stress of being the breadwinners for their children and their offspring.
Lulama comments: “Senior citizens are the backbones of many families, including their communities. Therefore, it is critical that they feel assured that they are not alone in their later years.”
“Today’s youth tend to forget about the role these giants played in our lives. Many senior citizens were trailblazers who have sacrificed a lot, including their lives and ambition – all to pave the way for the younger generation to enjoy the fruits of today’s freedom and to ensure that their children and grandchildren have a better future,” she says.
International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually on 1 October. It aims to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly and to acknowledge the contributions older people make to society. The theme for 2021 is “Digital Equity for All Ages’.
With the benefits of digital interactivity in mind, Ikamva Labantu has embraced the digital arena for their Umelwane Project.
“We have been using WhatsApp to convey everything from parenting course information to education during Covid. There is room for improvement, as some seniors are still hesitant, but if we link it to other initiatives such as SASSA grants or medical care, appointments could be made with seniors so they don’t have to stand in long queues at health facilities,“ she says.
* Show your support for senior citizens by donating here: https://ikamva.org.za/donate/