The Older Persons Amendment Bill has garnered widespread support from senior citizens in the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality and surrounding areas during a series of public hearings conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Social Development. The Bill’s objectives, which aim to address issues related to abuse, social welfare, healthcare, and geriatric services, resonated deeply with the elderly population present at the Newlands East Community Hall in Durban.
Emotional and Physical Abuse: A Growing Concern
During the public hearings, elderly citizens passionately expressed their backing for the Bill, emphasizing the urgent need to combat emotional and physical abuse that many older persons endure from family members and their communities. This distressing reality has prompted the call for improved legal protections and preventive measures.
Proposed Relocation to Places of Safety
One of the Bill’s key proposals, suggesting the relocation of older persons to places of safety, struck a chord with the elderly attendees. They voiced their approval, highlighting that such a move would shield them from the abuse often perpetuated by relatives who misappropriate their social grants, leaving them vulnerable and unsupported.
Addressing the Cost of Living in Old Age Homes
An issue raised by the senior citizens was the exorbitant costs associated with living in old age homes. They alleged that these facilities absorb all their social grant earnings, leaving them with little to no financial autonomy. In response, the elderly community requested that the Bill includes provisions for monitoring old age homes and their costs. They called for standardized rates across all centers to ensure they retain some financial independence.
Priority Healthcare for the Elderly
The elderly population also stressed the need for priority healthcare services due to their advanced age. They voiced concern over prolonged waiting times for ambulances and advocated for separate queues at clinics and hospitals to expedite services for older persons.
Fighting Dementia Through Research and Geriatric Specialists
With KwaZulu-Natal experiencing a high rate of killings of older persons linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s, the senior citizens urged the government to invest more in research for the treatment and cure of these ailments. Furthermore, they passionately advocated for the revival of the geriatric doctors’ program, which would see specialized doctors visiting old age centers instead of elders having to travel to hospitals. This program was discontinued about five years ago without any explanation, leaving the elderly without essential medical care.
Strengthening Protections and Recognizing Responsibilities
The Older Persons Amendment Bill aims to reinforce the protection and prevention of abuse against older persons, eliminate harmful traditional practices, and recognize the vital role older persons play in passing on inter-generational knowledge and wisdom. Additionally, the Bill proposes the provision for the removal of older persons to temporary safe care without requiring a court order.
Commendation for Active Participation
Ms. Nonkosi Mvana, the Committee Chairperson, commended the senior citizens for their candid participation in the public consultations. Their insights and lived experiences are pivotal in shaping legislation that directly impacts their well-being and safety.
Next Steps: Public Hearings in Zululand District Municipality
As the nationwide public consultation process continues, the Portfolio Committee on Social Development will conduct further public hearings in the Zululand District Municipality. The valuable feedback received from these consultations will play a crucial role in fine-tuning the Older Persons Amendment Bill to ensure it addresses the urgent needs of the elderly population across the country.
In conclusion, the overwhelming support from senior citizens in KwaZulu-Natal reflects the gravity of the issues the Older Persons Amendment Bill aims to address. By strengthening protections, improving access to healthcare, and recognizing the responsibilities of older persons, the proposed legislation seeks to empower and uplift the elderly community, safeguarding their dignity and well-being in their golden years.