Let’s give senior citizens more social, psychological support

The elderly wait for ‘Pesa kwa wazee’ payout in Kitui. They need extra care. [File, Standard]
A recent visit to Kariki Ageing Centre in Kawangware, Nairobi, positively changed my attitude towards the elderly.

It was exciting to see a galaxy of people between 60 and 90 years stretching their hands and singing the hymn Head, shoulders, knees and toes.

For those who never went to nursery school, the lyric when put into practice ensures one moves their body, exercising it well.

Indeed, with this happening, the old may not need treadmills. Those advanced in age need to keep fit since most of them lead sedentary lifestyles, and their bones are stiff.

The happy faces of the old men and women made me think of the cash transfer model of supporting senior citizens spearheaded by the government in conjunction with development partners like UNICEF.

Since this is a new phenomenon which seems to be working well, implementers of the noble initiative not relent.

They should support the more than 1.2 million senior citizens of Kenya to lead decent lives. Another Census will be done in two days, maybe the number will change.

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As the government continues to give stipends of Sh2000 every month to those aged 70 years and above, which is uniform countrywide save for those in pension schemes, the programme needs a well-thought procedure to achieve optimum results.

The issue of the capacity building should be the driving force from the government. It is imperative to note that it is the first time that these old people are receiving money from the government for their own use.

When such people receive support from the government, their status in society is uplifted. For this reason, it is important to prepare them psychologically to understand why they are being paid and how to spend the money. What should be their priorities when they are paid? Is it food or seeking treatment since they are prone to disease attacks.

The media should also assist in identifying the gaps in this programme and amplify through broadcast, print and online platforms.

For example, how many old people without stature in the society are ever invited on TV talk shows? Few if any apart from during cultural festivals? If the media occasionally involves them in its programming, we will boost their morale and they will see themselves as an integral part of society.

We should be getting periodic updates of how the old people are doing, doing some have a higher level of prosperity. If challenges in rolling out the programme and are highlighted in an objective manner, then policymakers will come up with possible practical solutions to better the life the old generation that is equated to gold Kenya.

There are relevant examples to justify my thoughts. The safety net of old people in the society is at risk and increasingly continue to be so.

Generally, as one becomes old he may be isolated by a large group of the society which can cause depression to the old people and maybe that is the solid reason and that why Dr. Gichu gives them free physical training to make their bodies sturdy and minds fresh.

Who takes care of them especially after being paid the monthly payment of Sh2000 and sometimes it accumulates and gets maybe 6k for three months?

You might find the old man being attacked by some family members or even forced to share with the children who become hostile to him/her when the cheque is cashed. What should be their priorities when they are paid? Is it food or seeking treating treatment since old people are prone to sicknesses including terminal ones like cancer.

Remember nobody is responsible for what they do with that money. Old people need social-psychological support to survive. There’s more to gain in ensuring the elderly get maximum support from all of us.

Paul Nabiswa, KTN News

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