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I must mention that this article is inspired by an 89 years old lady known as Amai Tolase; living a few meters away from my parents home, in the farming outskirts of Lusaka-Kasisi area.

The Growing Elderly Population/Demographic Trends
As societies age and demographic shifts occur, addressing the needs of older adults becomes increasingly critical. Among this population, those living in poverty face unique challenges. In Zambia, most elderly people live in poverty, which is why, caring for them is not only a moral imperative but also essential for a country’s well-being.
Much as Zambia stands to record a large percentage of population to be youths, much of its population is aging, driven by various factors that we may not delve in today.
This demographic shift necessitates attention to the economic and social well-being of older citizens.

Economic and Social Impacts
Poverty Reduction:
Social Security benefits have played a crucial role in reducing elderly poverty. I’m Zambia, the elderly poverty rate has continued to fall significantly. Millions of seniors live below the poverty line, and many more barely make ends meet just above it.
Just like many elderly people across board in Zambian communities, Amai Tolase receives little or no care from her relatives, let alone from the government besides the Social Transfer Scheme that she benefits from time to time.
Fortunately for her, some people in her community have taken responsibility to offer care and support whenever she is in need, including security whenever there emerges potential danger.
Healthcare Costs: The current poverty measure does not consider healthcare expenses. High medical bills can significantly reduce the income available to meet other needs.
Would it not be a noble goal to distribute wheelchairs to aging adults who are unable to afford them, at a time of declining health and strength?
A better measure that accounts for healthcare costs would likely reveal a higher elderly poverty rate.

Social Services and Support
Home and Community-Based Services: Older adults in poverty require access to services such as transportation, meals, home care, and caregiver support. Community groups/agencies play a vital role in providing these services.
Health Insurance Programs: With the successful implementation of the NHIMA, it is expected that primary healthcare be provided to elderly people as-well through this schemes.
Deliberate system improvement to cater for the unkept elderly would be a necessity in addressing care towards the elderly, especially the poor elderly.

Age-Friendly Cities: Urban planning must accommodate older citizens. Accessible public transportation, age-friendly housing, and community centers are essential for their well-being.

Quality of Life and Dignity
Loneliness and Isolation: Poverty often leads to social isolation. Caring for older adults means addressing their emotional well-being and preventing loneliness.
How can the ministry of Community Development and Social Services (with help from interested groups and stakeholders) impact their work to improve the livelihoods of the elderly?
Human Rights: Every individual, regardless of age or economic status, deserves dignity and respect. Ensuring that older adults have access to basic necessities is a fundamental human right. Institutions such as the Human Rights Commission in Zambia can step up efforts to have our elderly people’s welfare checked and serviced.

Policy Considerations -Strengthening Social Safetky Nets
Enhanced Social Security: Continuously improving Social Security benefits is crucial. Adequate financial support allows older adults to live with dignity. For example, the social cash transfer scheme (SCTS) needs to be upscaled as the cost of living keeps doubling and rising nearly every quarter
Affordable Healthcare: Expanding access to affordable healthcare, including long-term care, is essential. This reduces the financial burden on older individuals and their families.
For foremothers like Amai Tolase; beyond government, groups or individuals can begin to organize wheelchairs to take into communities for distribution to the elderly in need.

Community-Based Programs
Eldercare Services: We need more social welfare homes for the elderly, and there is need to improve the very few that Zambia has in the likes of Matero area. More similar set ups can be put up in various districts across provinces.
These programs enhance their quality of life and independence.
Volunteerism and Intergenerational Bonds: Encouraging volunteer efforts to support older adults fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility.
This can deliberately be included in extracurricular programs in schools, from elementary to tertiary, in order to instill compassionate values in the young population. No elder must be left to suffer to their death beds.

Caring for the old and poor is not only an ethical obligation but also an investment in a nation’s future. By prioritizing their well-being, we create a society that values compassion, resilience, and intergenerational solidarity.
It is important to recognize the contributions of our elders, and ensure that they live their later years with dignity and support.

In the next article, we shall endeavor to review the National Aging Policy that was formulated in 2015 by the then government administration through the Ministry of Community Development.



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