My guest poster today is from Zambia
Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa with a population of some 15 million people, 3% of whom are aged over 65. Its principal industry is copper mining and it is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa. The country was named after its largest river, the Zambesi.
Given the statistics above, I was surprised to receive so many photos of older people not only over 65, but well into their 70s 80s 90s and even over 100. Many thanks to Olden Hamabibi who has put in a lot of work to visit these seniors and give us a little bit of information about their struggle to survive. Welcome, and over to you Olden.
Hi Maddy, and thank you for inviting me to post on this International Day of Older People.
Ageism exists in Zambia
In spite, or maybe even in part because of, their small number, older Zambians experience deprivation due to Ageism. Many of the younger generation accuse older persons of practicing witchcraft. They wrongly attribute the survival and longevity of the aged to magical powers and the casting of spells. Some really fear the old because of this belief as well as because of of their appearance, and shun them.
A life filled with fear and anxiety
That forces many of our elderly to live a life of rejection and fear, ever anxious that one of the young ones will come to kill them. Most of them feel rejected and excluded from society, because of the hostile attitude that is widespread in their community, which has no respect or love towards them as elders.
An unfunded program
There are several huge challenges for the elderly in Zambia, which will become more important as life expectancy increases. In order to help the elderly in the community, I take part in the Learn with Grandma Zambia program. This program aims to bring the younger and the older generations together so that they can learn from each other and combat age discrimination. The organization is not funded, however, meaning that we have no central premises for food distribution. Nor can we centralize other aid such as health initiatives or social programs. You can imagine how difficult it is to help the elderly while always having to spend our own money, or spend time raising funds.
Working to eat
Our older persons in Zambia have problems beyond human expectations. It’s hard to believe that the aged, including many that I know personally, survive on a single meal in a day. Most of them cannot afford to eat twice a day. There are no government programs of assistance for the aged because of a general perception that they have already lived longer than could have been expected. For this achievement they do not receive any special respect or rewards. So Learn with Grandma Zambia strives to help by delivering small food packets to the homes of their elderly friends.
However, more still needs to be done. Education of the young is key to helping the old. Whilst young people continue to believe in witchcraft it will be a stretch to involve them in helping the elderly. But if we can bring them together, we can dispel fears and engender mutual respect. With younger people involved, we could do so much more. It is my dream to organize food drives whereby families could contribute a small donation of food – whatever they can spare – so that we could distribute more food to those in need. We are making headway by teaching the community through inter-generational learning.
The other problem that most of our older people struggle with is a lack of good housing. Their homes are not always weatherproof. They may lack doors and windows or or have a leaky roof. However, as Learn with Grandma Zambia, we have manged to provide some doors and other maintenance. This is always difficult because it requires labor and time, but it is very necessary.
Loss of Mobility
Furthermore, older persons here have walking problems due possibly to arthritis and other frailties. It is not possible to define the exact cause of their weaknesses because they lack medical advice, but their mobility often becomes severely limited. They have no access to walkers or Zimmer frames, which would probably not suit the terrain anyway. Meet Stella Moono aged 93 , who uses a plastic chair to support herself when moving around. Her life would be much improved with a simple walking stick.
Another thing that the elderly lack is a comfortable bed and bedding. The majority have no sheets or blankets at all, or warm clothes to wear during cold seasons. I feel very sad and concerned because as an organization, Learn with Grandma Zambia simply does not have enough resources to meet the huge and increasing need.
A Centenarian calls herself a miner
Let me introduce you to some of my aged clients. First meet Mrs Phonias who, at the age of 104, survives by crushing stones to buy food because she has no one to look after her. She has nick-named herself a miner! Learn with Grandma Zambia can not mange to take care of her. We only visit her to give her hope for life. She is happy to see us every time. She has no walking stick.
Meet a few of my other clients (I have 270 souls in total to take care of) who are the exceptions who have proved the rule by exceeding the life span of the average Zambian. Zambia is not unusual in having a higher proportion of females than men reaching centenarian status. I will update you on their progress on my next visit to Maddy at Home.
Olden Hamabibi is the director of Learn with Grandma Zambia (LGZ). LGZ is a non-profit organization with a passion for working with older persons to bridge the gap using ICT through inter-generational learning. If you are able to source and donate basic walking sticks that would help our elderly, please ship direct to:
OLDEN HAMABIBI, LEARN WITH GRANDMA ZAMBIA, SOUTHERN PROVINCE MONZE, ZAMBIA TEL +260972240181/0955146529 Olden advises that DHL would be the best company to use to ship to this remote area.
If you are able to help, you will see your walking sticks being used right here in an update of this post, once Olden distributes them. You will really know that your kind gift has made a difference. Basic sticks like the one shown below – nothing fancy, is what is needed but they are not available in our area.
Please share this post to help Learning with Grandma Zambia to take the first steps in making life a little bit easier for the elderly in their country and in particular the more remote areas.