When Nandipha’s* shack burnt down a few years ago, she lost all her belongings and was left homeless; at 64 years old, she had no choice but to move in with her daughter. Sadly, this was not a welcome arrangement. Nandipha’s daughter only had one bed which she shared with her two children – and now with her mother too. Although she had nowhere else to turn, Nandipha felt that she was not truly welcome in her daughter’s home. Every day, she would find her clothes and blankets thrown outside the door – it was made clear that she was taking up too much space.
In addition to this, Nandipha had stopped taking the chronic medication that helped to manage her diabetes, and she was also recovering from a stroke and suffering from arthritis. With no healthcare support, Nandipha didn’t understand how to take her medication or why she needed to. When Ikamva Labantu fieldworker, Asanda*, met Nandipha for the first time, she was very ill and uncared for.
Asanda assisted Nandipha in getting to the clinic and accessing the appropriate medication for her conditions. With the right treatment and support, Nandipha soon gained back her strength. But she was still spending her days in her daughter’s cramped home where she felt like a burden.
With her health conditions now stable, Asanda invited Nandipha to join one of the Ikamva Labantu senior clubs in Cape Town, where she could spend her days socialising among her peers. Nandipha showed immediate interest in the club and taking part in all that was on offer. She joined the senior club in February this year.
Today, Nandipha is one of many senior citizens that has been recruited to join the senior clubs by fieldworkers who go door-to-door searching for older persons in need. She is provided transport to and from the clubs every day and enjoys daily nutritious meals, health support, and social activities at the club.
“I love to bead,” Nandipha says, ”and the other seniors help me when my hands are shaking. I also love to sing – I wasn’t able to join the choir competition last time, but next time I’ll be there!”
For Nandipha, the days at the club provide relief from the stress that she feels at her daughter’s home. Ikamva Labantu has also assisted Nandipha to access an emergency fund that will help her move out of her daughter’s home and back into a home of her own, where she can feel at ease again.
Ikamva Labantu’s fieldworkers walk door-to-door throughout Cape Town’s townships, looking for senior citizens in need. We call these fieldworkers ‘Umelwanes’, which means ‘neighbourhood friend’ in isiXhosa. The Umelwane initiative is an extension of our Seniors Programme that provides home-based care to frail older persons. In some cases, these interventions improve the health of an older person to the extent that they are able to leave their homes and join their peers at an Ikamva Labantu senior club.
*Real names have not been used.