Address by Gauteng Premier, Ms Nomvula Mkonyane, during the South African Older Persons Forum Workshop, Reginah Mundi, Soweto
15 Nov 2011Program Director
President of the Forum
Ladies and Gentlemen
The moral health of any society can be best measured, amongst other things, by the manner in which that society treats its elders. The exploitation, abuse and neglect suffered by the elders tell us about the level of moral bankruptcy found in society. If that is allowed to happen we are not only failing in our responsibility towards the elderly but becoming accomplice in a systematic destruction of the wealth of knowledge, experience and history of which the elderly are the repository.
A province like Gauteng which is populated by almost 720 000 older persons which translates to about 8% of the Gauteng population, according to 2007 community survey, cannot afford to fudge the issues of older persons’ rights.
In a province where about 321 000 are beneficiaries of the old age state grant with the high concentration of these in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Northrand, we cannot afford to fold our arms and watch the older persons suffer. In fact the protection, caring and support of the elderly should therefore be the concern of every self respecting member of society.
As the Gauteng Provincial Government we are committed to the welfare and the rights of the older persons and doing everything within our capacity to deal with the daily challenges they face. These challenges range from poverty and unemployment, limited access to information and education, abuse at homes and caring centres to failing health.
Owing to high unemployment rate older persons find themselves being breadwinners in families and this has resulted in a negative impact on their livelihoods. Coupled with the prevalent of HIV/AIDS pandemic this has added another responsibility on older persons, resulting in them having to provide care and support to their families. Their vulnerability is made worse by the fact that the majority of older persons are not literate due to lack of opportunity to be educated as a resilt they have to rely on others for information. Educational and awareness programmes need to be developed to ensure that basic information as a right is made available to older persons.
In additon, there is a growing concern about the abuse, neglect and ill treatment of older persons in residential facilities and the community. But there is a veil of silence which compounds this problem because the members of the public and the elderly are very reluctant to report abuse. It is about time that we all speak out against abuse and violation of the older person so that we can rid society of the bad elements.
In light of these challenges the current democratic government realised that there was a need to create a legislative regime that will address the plight of the older person and advance their rights. Consequently, the Older Persons Act No 13 of 2006 was passed which recognises amongst others the critical role played by older persons in society, the skills and wisdom of older persons, their right to live in the community as long as possible, and their right to care, protection and dignity. The Act places emphasis on community-based care as opposed to residential care and recognises NGOs as critical role-players in service delivery.
We have introduced and implemented numerous programs aimed at translating the objectives of the Act into tangible activities. To this end, the Gauteng Provincial Government has provided funding to 84 service centres and 72 luncheon clubs in 2011/12 financial year reaching 5396 and 1586 respectively. We also have implemented the active ageing programmes called the Golden Games as well as Choir competitions reaching 2081 older persons. In an effort to further strengthen active ageing programme government is in the process of procuring gym equipment for six residential and community based facilities. Our home-based care services which is linked to residential and community based care services is benefitting 3549 frail older persons in the Province.
Since the aim of the Act is also to combat the abuse of older persons and to protect their rights we have put in place the following measures:
These are some of the programs and initiatives that we have implemented in our drive to promote the rights and status of the older person in Gauteng. There is more that needs to be done so that the dignity of our elders can be restored. However, this will not be achieved if all sectors of our society do not work together. The challenges faced by the older person call for a multi-disciplinary approach which allows for the collaboration and the sharing of the best practices.
- An older persons’ abuse register to ensure that abused older persons receive the necessary services. The register is regularly to determine the extent of abuse and the types of abuse prevalent in the Province. All our facilities are expected to keep the register of abuse.
- Provision of place of safety with beds for abused older persons on a temporary bases in residential facilities
- Registration of residential facilities and the development of the database of caregivers rendering services to older persons
- And conducting education and awareness campaigns to educate communities about abuse.
I therefore urge all of us to work and strive for the life of dignity for the older person because “Older Persons Rights are Human Rights too”
Issued by: Gauteng Office of the Premier
15 Nov 2011
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