At present senior citizens, certified by their ward offices, get free or inexpensive medical service at health centres in their localities and most of the times are given prescriptions and are told to buy medicines at nearby pharmacies. Some of the times they do not have money to do so. So they walk back home without any drugs.
In Zanzibar, the government has a ‘Nyumba ya Wazee’ – a residence for Senior Citizens where they are accommodated and taken care of. That is good and exemplary. However, I have not heard of similar institutions in other parts of Unguja or Pemba. There is no such government institution in Tanzania Mainland unless they are being treated as secret institutions for whatever reasons.
Why are Senior Citizens in Tanzania Mainland starving? Most of them are impecunious and are too frail to carry out activities that can provide them with regular income. Government officials, dealing with social welfare, can easily refute this statement saying that the so-called Senior Citizens received gratuities when they retired from their jobs and many of them are receiving pensions.
My contention is that what is a 15m/- gratuity for a senior citizen, who is, say, 35 years above the life expectance in Tanzania? If not invested judiciously that 15m/- cannot last more than 15 years. What about those who get 50,000/- or 30,000/- pensions each month?
These are in a better position because they are sure they will get their money even if it is delayed a bit. What about Senior Citizens who had practised self employment in the private sector? Their lot is not any better. To rectify this anomaly, I am given to understand the government intends to launch a 20,000/- monthly Universal: pension to be given to senior citizens above 65 years of age.
However the government has said that it cannot afford to pay such a large amount of money each month. So, it means the plan is still-born. Even if this plan materializes, the amount is simply too small for a month, considering the current prizes of food and other commodities. Any Senior Citizen, spending his pension very carefully, he or she will be able to survive for not more than two weeks.
What happens to the following two weeks before he or she receives the next pension? Survive on an empty stomach, quite a pleasant experience, you will, no doubt, agree with me. Why not invest your gratuity? That is a fair question. But how many Tanzanians know how and where to invest? Who makes them aware of investment opportunities?
To solve this question the government should carry the burden of supporting all Senior Citizens in urban settlements and in rural areas for it is its responsibility. And the ministry dealing with social welfare should make all senior citizens aware of investment opportunities.