Elderly Go Hungry

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Although senior citizens enjoy relatively good health, the majority of them feel they are not getting balanced meals, particularly in the northern and north-eastern regions where many elderly people subsist on a single meal a day. These are the findings of a recent country-wide survey undertaken by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, whose objective was to determine the status and living conditions of elderly people so that recommendations can be made to uplift their being. The survey ascertained that although massive levels of malnutrition are non-existent in Namibia, in several regions a substantial number of those interviewed said they do not get balanced meals. In Caprivi, 62.8 percent of those interviewed find themselves in this situation. The region that fares second most poorly is Kavango where up to 50 percent of those interviewed said they did not receive adequate and balanced meals. Omusati is third at 56 percent and Omaheke fourth with 48 percent of the respondents complaining. Oshikoto surveyed at 47 percent, Ohangwena 42 percent while Oshana recorded 41 percent. “Only 42 percent of respondents were getting three meals a day and almost 10 percent had only one daily meal. “In the Kavango, 31,8 percent of respondents had only one meal a day,” reads the report compiled by the Ministry of Health and Social Services. Another interesting revelation that came out in the report is the high incidence of alcohol consumption among senior citizens, especially in the Kavango, Ohangwena and Omusati regions. The average amount of money that respondents spend on alcohol is N$18,00 per week. This adds up to N$72,00 from their monthly pension monies. “More than half of regular drinkers said that they tried to quit drinking alcohol at some or other time in their lives,” states the report. Still on health, it was found that poor eyesight is especially a problem in the Caprivi Region where most of the respondents (63,4 percent) reported having poor eyesight. However, in spite of this situation only 1.7 percent of the respondents in this region wear glasses. The report says, “Currently, no government programme for subsidised eye testing or for spectacles is in place and most respondents had to pay for their own testing and spectacles.” Since poor eyesight is a general ailment in old age, suggestions were made that a field programme for eye testing and issuing of spectacles to the elderly would be beneficial. Although old people are less prone to HIV infection, it turns out that most of the respondents are well informed about the dangers and causes of the pandemic. This situation prevails all over the country except in the Caprivi where only close to 50 percent of the respondents were aware of the disease. Thus the low level of HIV/Aids awareness in the north-eastern region is a cause for grave concern for health authorities and the community as a whole. Since older people tend to end up caring for those who fall victim to the pandemic, it was suggested that the caring roles of senior citizens for people with HIV/Aids be recognised and supported. The latest report on the elderly was done through a sample survey of 2 656 households in all the13 regions of the country.