A week after the world marked the International Day of Older Persons on October 1, a 90-year-old woman was rescued from sexual abuse by boys young enough to be her great-grandchildren.
The years of sexual assaults against the woman who lived alone began with a nephew.
After he was arrested, the elderly woman still experienced sexual assault by young boys from the neighbourhood.
This is sadly one of many cases of elder abuse.
According to reports from Helpage Kenya, an organisation whose mission is to promote the wellbeing and inclusion of older persons, the oldest documented woman to go through sexual abuse was 105.
According to a World Health Organisation (WHO)-supported study, almost 16 per cent of people aged 60 and older were subjected to either psychological abuse (11.6 per cent), financial abuse (6.8 per cent), neglect (4.2 per cent), physical abuse (2.6 per cent) or sexual abuse (0.9 per cent).
This led to June 15 being declared the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to bring these cases into the public domain to help reduce them.
In the past, older persons commanded a lot of respect and were resource hubs for information and wisdom.
Urbanisation and other factors have since changed the script, and older persons are often left on their own in rural or more isolated areas and often neglected.
In some cases, where their children have died from HIV/Aids, they are left to take care of the younger children.
They are more prone to attacks and susceptible to ill physical and emotional health. It’s not surprising that some older women are opting to learn self-defence.
Though the family unit should be the first source of security, WHO says 90 per cent of elder abuse is done by close relatives.
The government must ensure that all its citizens, regardless of age, are secure.
This should not be limited to things like adequate food, but also to physical and emotional safety and health. Neglect and isolation lead to loneliness, which is sometimes the genesis of depression.
Helpage Kenya and other stakeholders provide technical support to the government, leading to a cash transfer programme for households with older persons.
Recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta approved a supplementary budget for the repeat presidential election held on October 26, as well as the ‘Inua Jamii’ cash transfer.
This is a social security programme for Kenyans aged 70 and above.
The cash transfer programme, which is a build-up to the older persons cash transfer programme (OPCT), will begin in January.
Beside the bimonthly transfers of Sh4,000 ($40), there is free medical treatment through the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
A community health worker who spoke up after the rescue of the 90-year-old woman said that she had contracted STDs and the cost of seeing a doctor twice a week was becoming expensive. It is good to see this included in the ‘Inua Jamii’ programme.
With partners such as Helpage Kenya, the government also can take advantage of the days when the cash transfers are conducted to offer physical and mental check-ups and support group meetings for older persons.
Community health workers should be trained to lead regular check-ins using the register under the ‘Inua Jamii’ programme and eventually host regular group check-ins.
Any concerns and suggestions should be raised for programming and policy.
The goal should be to be provide support until death.
Issues of security and justice in cases of abuse — either physical, verbal or psychological — of older persons should be taken seriously.
Ms Wafula is a mental health consultant with My Mind My Funk -? a mental health resource hub. She is also a TED speaker and an Aspen New Voices Fellow. [email protected]