Number of Pensioners Expected to Grow

The percentage of the Namibian population aged 60 which currently stands at only about 7 percent is expected to grow to about 21 percent over the next decade.

Life expectancy in Namibia – according to the 2011 Namibia Household and Population Census – for males is over 53 years, while for females it is slightly over 60 years.

This group faces a number of challenges, including insecurity, loneliness and lack of companionship, all which are factors that contribute to the ageing process as many people are in need.

The government provides N$600 a month for about 96 000 elderly people in the country, and about 14-21 percent of the population relies on this money.

The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peya Mushelenga, yesterday said although the elderly make up 7 percent of the population, close to half of all households are headed by the elderly, with about two-thirds of those being female headed.

Mushelenga who was speaking during the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) Department of Diakonia and Social Services’ second annual seminar on ageing explained it is imperative more individuals and organisations become involved in addressing challenges faced by the elderly.

The abuse and neglect of the elderly are also a major concern. Many are robbed of their pensions, raped and humiliated and these occur within family and societal set-ups.

Namibia, South Africa and Botswana are the only countries in Africa that guarantee social grants for the elderly.

“Although this amount is not excessive, it guarantees that the recipients have access to basic needs. With this monthly grant, the elderly have the opportunity to pay for water, get basic healthcare and pay for basic food needs. With this social grant, the elderly can be contributing members to their household and family expenses,” Mushelenga noted.

Social grants give a little bit of dignity to members of society who have otherwise been deemed as unproductive.

According to him, it also grants independence, as the elderly are free to make their own financial decisions and be less dependent on family members.

Additionally, he said, government prioritises health care for the elderly through programmes such as the cataract operations that happen yearly.

“The Namibian Government is committed to ensuring that senior citizens are assured of adequate healthcare in their old age. However, society has to increase the amount of care we offer the elderly. Government cannot act alone in providing for and taking care of our senior citizens.

There has to be more input from families and other concerned citizens. As urbanization causes more people to migrate to towns and cities, the elderly are left behind with little support and are left to fend for themselves,” stated Mushelenga.

When young people move to towns, they also tend to leave their young children with their grandparents.

Mushelenga gly condemned such behaviour and encouraged young people to take responsibility for their children and not to simply “dump” them at the grandparents’ homes.

“The issue of leaving children with the elderly is not only financially crippling, but it also puts physical and emotional strain on an elderly generation. Society should work hand in hand with government and come up with solutions to this problem. There should be other safety nets in place to ensure that senior citizens are not left alone with children, but rather family members should work together to take care of children and not leave the sole responsibility to the elderly,” he urged.

Source : New Era