International Day of Older Persons

Albert Fritz MPP

Western Cape Minister of Social Development

Yesterday was International Day of Older Persons.  According to UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, by 2050, the number of older persons will be twice the number of children in developed countries, and the number of older persons in developing countries is expected to double. This trend will have profound effects on countries and individuals.

As a government we are acutely aware of the rapidly expanding need for care and service to older persons, and as such we have this year increased our budget for this programme to R166 million, up from R154 million last year. We as government have a responsibility to do for people what they cannot reasonably be expected to do for themselves, and as a caring government, frail and impoverished older persons, should be prioritised for services and protection.

We currently fund 126 Old Age Homes across the province, and are also in the process of re-registering all of these facilities, to ensure they comply with new legislation under the Older Persons Act.

Furthermore, we will also be registering all private residential facilities, to ensure that the rights of all older persons are being respected and that they receive dignified care and protection, irrespective of whether government funds the facility.

The theme for this year is “The future we want: what older persons are saying”. This ties in so appropriately with our strategic objective of promoting social inclusion. Older persons are often marginalised in their communities and through this strategic objective we highlight the value that older persons can add to families, communities and society as a whole.

Service centres for older persons are becoming very popular amongst our seniors and we shall continue to expand our current service centres, in addition to the more than 200 centres that are currently operational across the Western Cape.  At these service centres, the older persons take part in programmes and activities that promote active ageing and overall well-being. Physical exercise is now part of their routine.

Many service centres across the province are currently holding their Golden Games, where members of different clubs compete with each other in field and track events. This is active ageing and I want to encourage all seniors to join local service centres or clubs in their communities.

While this day is all about celebrating and paying tribute to our older persons, we sadly also have to acknowledge the ongoing attacks and violence affecting older persons. Not every senior citizen has to live in a traditional old age home. Many seniors are fit, healthy and able to live independently. I have always encouraged this. However, seniors are often the most vulnerable and easy targets for crime. I therefore want to appeal to families, neighbours and communities to reach out to the elderly persons in their neighbourhood. Let us all be extra vigilant and look out for our seniors. They still have so much to teach us.