4 minute read

Sub-Saharan Africa

Policy And Practical Implications

What can be done? Clearly, poverty must be alleviated, gender justice must be achieved, and solutions to African problems must take an indigenous approach. Family-oriented policies and community-based initiatives offer feasible alternatives to the prohibitive cost of state interventions and the infrastructural constraints of rural areas where most elders live. Action-oriented participatory research will empower older Africans as they express their needs and envision solutions based on African social and cultural strengths.

Families will no doubt remain the basic resource for elders (as is the case throughout the world). Hence, it makes sense to target families for services to older persons, for example, by strengthening the resources of women, the traditional caregivers. Programs supporting the productive activities of women and elders—such as literacy and vocational education, rural cooperatives, small-scale village industries, and small loans to fund microenterprises—would benefit all family members. Such interventions would expand the impact of existing self-help and mutual aid groups, such as rotating credit associations and work groups. More extensive rural development, including improved employment opportunities, technical support, and service infrastructure, could induce more younger people to remain in their rural homes and could also benefit older persons, both economically and by having their relatives near.

Limited resources for medically based health care in Africa have led to an emphasis on community-based primary health care. Locally trained community health workers could provide nutrition and preventive-care education for older persons, especially women, thus benefiting all family members, given the involvement of women in feeding and caring for family members. In addition, indigenous healing practices and medications need consideration, especially as many Africans consult local practitioners instead of, or in addition to, going to doctors and hospitals.

Finally, policies and laws (including African customary laws) aimed at achieving gender justice would break the cycles of discrimination against women in their rights to land, property, and their children—and in access to knowledge and legal advice. These cycles have made African women of all ages especially vulnerable to poverty and violence. As with other problems of African elders, solutions need to be aimed not solely at older people, but at improving the situation of women, families, and communities and achieving economic development for all. Such improvements will enable older people to continue their self-support and substantial contributions to their families, and will enable families to give their elders adequate support and care. The situation of Africa, and African elders, is grim but not hopeless. Africans are resilient, creative, hardworking people with many social and cultural resources to call upon in changing things for the better.



APT, N. A., and KATILA, S. ‘‘Gender and Inter-generational Support: The Case of Ghanaian Women.’’ Southern African Journal of Gerontology 3, no. 2 (1994): 23–29.

CAMPBELL, C. ‘‘Intergenerational Conflict in Township Families: Transforming Notions of ‘Respect’ and Changing Power Relations.’’ Southern African Journal of Gerontology 3, no. 2 (1994): 37–42.

CATTELL, M. G. ‘‘Caring for the Elderly in Sub-Saharan Africa.’’ Ageing International XX, no. 2 (1993): 13–19.

CATTELL, M. G. ‘‘African Widows, Culture and Social Change: Case Studies from Kenya.’’ In The Cultural Context of Aging: Worldwide Perspectives, 2d ed. Edited by J. Sokolovsky. Westport, Conn.: Bergin & Garvey, 1997. Pages 71–98.

FERREIRA, M.; APT, N.; and KIRAMBI, A., compilers. Ageing in Changing Societies: Africa Preparing for the Next Millennium (AGES Workshop Report). Accra, Ghana: African Gerontological Society (AGES), 1999.

HAMPSON, J. ‘‘Marginalisation and Rural Elderly: A Shona Case Study.’’ Journal of Social Development in Africa 5, no. 2 (1990): 5–23.

MØLLER, V., and SOTSHONGAYE, A. ‘‘‘My Family Eat This Money Too’: Pension Sharing and Self-Respect among Zulu Grandmothers.’’ Southern African Journal of Gerontology 5, no. 2 (1996): 9–19.

MYSLIK, W. D.; FREEMAN, A.; and SLAWSKI, J. ‘‘Implications of AIDS for the South African Population Age Profile.’’ Southern African Journal of Gerontology 6, no. 2 (1997): 3–8.

NYANGURU, A. C.; HAMPSON, J.; ADAMCHAK, D. J.; and WILSON, A. O. ‘‘Family Support for the Elderly in Zimbabwe.’’ Southern African Journal of Gerontology 3, no. 1 (1994): 22–26.

OKOJIE, F. A. ‘‘Aging in Sub-Saharan Africa: Toward a Redefinition of Needs Research and Policy Directions.’’ Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 3 (1988): 3–19.

PEIL, M. ‘‘The Small Town as a Retirement Centre.’’ In The Migration Experience in Africa. Edited by J. Baker and T. A. Aina. Sweden: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1995. Pages 149–166.

PEIL, M.; BAMISAIYE, A.; and EKPENYONG, S. ‘‘Health and Physical Support for the Elderly in Nigeria.’’ Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 4 (1989): 89–106.

RWEZAURA, B. A. ‘‘Changing Community Obligations to the Elderly in Contemporary Africa.’’ Journal of Social Development in Africa 4, no. 1 (1989): 5–24.

SAGNER, A. ‘‘Urbanization, Ageing, and Migration: Some Evidence from African Settlements in Cape Town.’’ Southern African Journal of Gerontology 6, no. 2 (1997): 13–19.

TOGONU-BICKERSTETH, F.; AKINNAWO, E. O.; AKINYELE, O. S.; and AYENI, E. ‘‘Public Alms Solicitation among the Yoruba Elderly in Nigeria.’’ Southern African Journal of Gerontology 6, no. 2 (1997): 26–31.

UDVARDY, M., and CATTELL, M. G., eds. ‘‘Gender, Aging and Power in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Puzzles.’’ Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 7, no. 4 (1992).

VAN DER GEEST, S. ‘‘Between Respect and Reciprocity: Managing Old Age in Rural Ghana.’’ Southern African Journal of Gerontology 6, no. 2 (1997): 20–25.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 4Sub-Saharan Africa - The Economic Situation Of Older Africans, The Social Situation Of Older Africans, Vulnerable Elders, Policy And Practical Implications