IT is a pretty much familiar fact that extensive travelling, more-so beyond one’s country of birth, is a big eye-opener. One of the shocking discoveries that Tanzanians have made during trips abroad, is the psychological anguish to which elderly persons housed in old people’s homes are subjected.
Someone who would have been given only a casual briefing on the subject would wonder what the whole fuss was about. The curiosity would stem from the fact that the mostly frail and sickly men and women are housed in spacious rooms that have television facilities, they are fed and cleaned up by kind-hearted staff, who also respond to other requests of theirs.
The senior citizens are also regularly taken on trips to fanciful locations like beaches, to cheer them up. There’s one big vacuum in their lives, however, that is virtually impossible to fill – loneliness stemming from detachment from close family members, who include biological children. Whereas some of the family members, plus friends and acquaintances, pay them regular visits, what the ‘wazee’ miss most is the solid, rich companionship that would be manifested by living amongst them.
For a hostel-oriented life smacks of artificiality. That’s one area in which African culture has earned much praise elsewhere, one of whose manifestations is the love and care for elderly persons. Naturally, Tanzania shares in that credit. Relative poverty notwithstanding, our ‘wazee’ are generally well catered for, compassion and companionship being among the anchors.
Those are tonics that cheer them up, as opposed to their kind in some parts of world, for whom loneliness is psychologically destabilising, and a few visits by younger family members, on occasions like religious festivities isn’t very helpful.
Healthcare, however, is one area that needs consolidating, to boost the morale of our senior citizens. It is by clearing the mismatch between intentions and actions on free medical care for them.
We are thus heartened to hear that the Ubungo Municipal Council in Dar es Salaam has set aside 60 million shillings to cater for them during the 2018/2019 financial year. It is a fantastic gesture worthy of emulation. Lest we forget, inherent in uplifting the spirits of senior citizens are blessings for the rest of community members.
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