Older persons often endure an environment bereft of resources, rights and dignity, and remain one of the most vulnerable groups. With the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 which exacerbated dire living conditions, isolation and neglect of the elderly has become commonplace in South African townships.
“Senior citizens are the backbone of their families and their communities. It is critical that they feel that they are not alone. Ikamva Labantu’s seniors’ clubs provide a ‘home from home’ for these township-based elders. They are offered an environment of care and companionship along with opportunities for income generation, through Ikamva Design – the social enterprise initiative of Ikamva Labantu,” says Lulama Sigasana, Head of the Seniors’ Programme at Ikamva Labantu.
During the time of South Africa’s Apartheid injustice, specifically in the townships and Cape Flats, many selfless community members took care of their vulnerable elders. They were given a warm meal and medical care in a haven. These initiatives led to the formal establishment of a senior citizens’ programme by local NPO Ikamva Labantu with 21 thriving seniors’ clubs across the Cape from Gugulethu to Fish Hoek.
Ikamva Labantu is proud to announce that the Clubs have reopened after extensive renovation and the Covid shutdown and that the Seniors’ programme is in full swing!
“When the seniors’ clubs were closed, we stayed in our homes with nothing to do. It felt like we were losing our minds,” says seniors’ club member Ethel Fanelo, “We were overjoyed when the clubs reopened and we were able to see everyone again. Staying at home makes you age so much.”
For many senior citizens, the seniors’ clubs have become a much-needed lifeline. Through the seniors’ programme, the elders have access to social workers, financial advice, medical practitioners, healthy meals, income-generating activities and transport to and from the clubs.
Seniors’ Club Member, George Mqokolo describes the club environment, “We don’t just sit, eat and have fun. We get to learn about things that empower us. We sometimes get together to exercise and do things that we don’t have access to in our homes. We form choirs and have competitions with the other clubs and this keeps us very happy.”
Ikamva Labantu has been active in socio-economic development in South Africa for nearly 60 years. The organisation has extensive hands-on experience and has built and nurtured a vast footprint in Cape Town’s township communities. Since the 1960s, Helen Lieberman, the co-Founder of Ikamva Labantu, has worked with hundreds of remarkably determined, hard-working and resilient people who cared about the well-being of children, women, the elderly population and so on many families profoundly affected by the circumstances beyond their control.
The organisation is honoured and humbled to be invited and accepted into the communities it serves and to follow the voice and direction of its people. Due to this trusting relationship with the community members and leaders, Ikamva Labantu continues to be at the forefront of solution-driven projects and programmes that the township communities themselves lead.