Who takes care of the elderly in Africa and Rwanda?

Who takes care of the elderly in Africa and Rwanda?

Africa is ageing rapidly, sparking increasing interest both in what care is needed for older adults and on how it’s provided.

Care needs are often measured in relation to the capacity to perform core activities of daily living. These include getting dressed, taking a bath, going to the toilet, eating, walking across a room (mobility) and getting into or out of a sleeping place (transferring). The assumption is that these activities are critical to a person’s ability to participate (and indeed simply survive) in society. But this raises key questions including how these needs are distributed, are they met, and are they met equally?

In Africa neither the state nor the private sector consistently provide institutions for people living in poor communities. Care facilities are usually confined to urban areas, and are often considered a last resort. Personal care is therefore assumed to be provided by family and household members, with one person taking on most tasks.

Conventionally, women are expected to be the main providers of care to the elderly, an extension of the caregiving they might provide to infants and children, spouses and others. Specific assumptions include: that a kinswoman will be willing and able to provide personal care and assist in everyday household activities; that households have the economic capacity to provide this care; and that those who provide care do not in turn need care and their health is relatively stable. The reality is far more complex.

Elsewhere in Africa there are challenges when it comes to reciprocal care and support between couples who age together. Such couples may be unable to access outside care because of their poor health and mobility. This lack of access can be made worse by a lack of transport, geographic isolation, limited finances and a limited social network.