The population of elderly people in Africa is projected to hit 67 million by 2025 and 165 million by 2050, according to the World Health Organisation. African people are living longer than ever before, largely thanks to efforts by governments to solve some of the challenges that have ravaged the continent for decades, such as lack of food and water, poor access to health care facilities, and the fast spread of communicable diseases. However, most African countries still don’t have programs in place to take care of the elderly, and this task is usually left to family members. When no family members are available or willing, many seniors are left struggling to take care of most of their needs. Luckily, there are many things that you can do to improve the life of a senior, whether you are a family member, friend or simply a well-wisher.
Providing assistive technologies
There are various technologies that can help ease some aspects of senior life. One of the best assistive technologies for the elderly is Personal Emergency Response Services (PERS). Also known as Medical Alerts, PERS is a system that helps seniors get help faster when they need it. The system comprises of a small transmitter that the person wears around the neck or wrist, and should they press the button, a signal is sent to a connected emergency response center so that they can send help immediately. For seniors who belong to communities like the Maasai of East Africa where most people don’t own smartphones, such a system can even be life-saving. Similarly, panic buttons can be placed strategically in a senior’s home so that they can call for help whenever they need it.
Making necessary home modifications
As a person gets older, their home might become harder to live in due to changing needs and medical problems that come with old age. Various modifications can be made to a senior’s home to improve comfort and make life easier, especially with regards to making movement around the home stress-free. For example, you can have grab bars installed in various locations around the home to help a person struggling with balance and general movement make their way around the house. If a senior uses a wheelchair, all the doorways should be widened and ramps fitted to the home entrance for easier access. You can also make some modifications to the bathroom to make it easier to wash, and to prevent slips and falls.
Take them to special events
Seniors are left out of many community and family events, especially when they have an illness or injury that is causing mobility problems. You can help them get to such events by informing them of where and when they are happening, and if necessary, making sure they get there. For example, an event like the Igbo New Yam Festival that is held annually in Nigeria is a great place for Igbo seniors to meet and have a good time with their community. Seeing and interacting with other people makes them happy and reminds them that they are still valued members of their communities. You can also take them to places where they can specifically meet other seniors. While they’re there, they get to interact with other older people, which keeps them engaged, happy and healthier. They can make new friends and establish connections with members of their generation, who could be going through the same things they are.
Seniors across Africa deserve a life of happiness in their final years, not one filled with loneliness or hardship. Both seniors and their caretakers should feel empowered to make the necessary changes to ensure that they are happy, healthy, and well taken care of in their old age.