In the traditional society, older people were highly regarded because of the important roles they played by helping to integrate the society, preserve its cultural values, transmit knowledge and skills, settle disputes and educate the young. Taking an elderly person to an old people’s home was unthinkable and considered un-African. The few such homes that existed were run by religious or charity organizations and catered for those who had been abandoned by their families. However, as the society becomes modernized, the traditional role that children have of taking care of their ageing parents is changing.
How they work
Typically, each person or couple in the home has an apartment-style room or suite of rooms. These residential homes provide lodging, meal services and assistance with daily living activities. Examples of elderly homes in Kenya include; Nyumba ya Wazee, which is run by the Little Sisters of the Poor Missionaries located in Kasarani, Thogoto home for the elderly and on the higher end are the Harrison house on Ngong road and the Edgemays home in Westlands among others.
The majority of older people in Kenya are faced with a host of problems that vary from economic, health, social and other personal problems. The Kenyan government introduced a national policy on older persons and ageing to make their life easier. The plans not only include subsidized housing and food but access to health care and social security for elderly people.
The longer people live, their physical, social and psychological special needs increase. Families might want to keep their elderly loved ones with them, but their ability to look after them may be limited. Attending to the hygiene requirements of the elderly, for example, like bathing and toilet visits, can be quite challenging.
In many of these homes, especially those run by churches and other organizations, volunteers are much needed and appreciated. Volunteers are needed to support and take care of old people in the care homes. They work along local staff in the care homes to provide personal care, feeding, taking medicines, physical activity, personal hygiene and simply spending volunteer quality time with them to cheer them up and bring a smile to their faces.
Most challenges faced by these homes are financial. However, a greater challenge is when it comes to burying the dead, as they are forced to take them to the Lang’ata cemetery. These homes are mostly run by churches who rely on benefactors and volunteers who help in the running of the home.
Changes in the structure of the society have left older people with challenges which were not previously experienced. Cultural analyst Joyce Nyairo believes there is nothing un-African about taking the elderly to retirement homes. Dr Nyairo, who has written numerous essays on traditional communities in Kenya, says because of globalization, a lot of notions about what is right or wrong according to African societies will disappear with time and how we treat the elderly is one of them (DN May 14th, 2016 https://nation.africa/kenya/life-and-style/lifestyle/the-new-age-dilemma-of-caring-for-ageing-parents-1198666 )
Reference: The new age dilemma of caring for ageing parents, Nation Africa; https://nation.africa/kenya/life-and-style/lifestyle/the-new-age-dilemma-of-caring-for-ageing-parents-1198666
By Wanjiru Muhoro | Writer