Older persons: The case of South Africa
The South African Constitution (Act 108 of 1996) laid the foundation for the transformation agenda of the new democracy to protect the human rights of older persons and to terminate all the forms of racial discrimination and inequality that had been instituted against them by the apartheid state. New legislation was passed in 2006, making provision for the protection of the rights of older persons and shifting services from primarily institutional care to community-based care, with a view to keeping the elderly in the community as long as possible. The old age pension, which is received by the majority of older persons in South Africa, targets household poverty rather than facilitating older persons' independent living. Recurring themes in qualitative studies conducted in South Africa include the erosion of the traditional extended family, which impacts on families' ability to care for older people, and the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Consequently, the elderly have become primary care-givers for sick children and orphaned grandchildren. They now face financial hardship, because they have to share their meagre income with their intergenerational households. In their caregiver role, the elderly experience renewed meaning for their lives in contributing to society, which instils resilience and a sense of empowerment. Despite this, they remain a vulnerable group who can be exploited. The South African government and society are challenged to implement the Act on Older Persons, No 13 of 2006, which forms the cornerstone for services that will facilitate older people's protection and their full integration into South African society. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009.