Guest Post I Odongo Wycliff :- The tension between senior citizens and their children and perhaps grandchildren can only be done away with if the former is given an opportunity to engage in their own income-generating pursuits.
Senior citizens globally are prone to abuse
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of nonfatal attacks against men 60 and older increased by 75.4 per cent between 2002 and 2016, while those against women of that age rose by 35.4 per cent from 2007 to 2016. Indeed, elder abuse is a global phenomenon.
In Uganda, the 1995 constitution considers elders as “vulnerable” and deserve special interventions to tackle their susceptibility. The 2014 Uganda National Population and Housing Census put the number of Older Persons (Ops) at 1,433,305.
A story of the boy who recently beat his grandmother up in Omoro district during this turbulent coronavirus times is heartbreaking. On the one hand a pandemic and its consequences are threatening lives, while “future leaders” finish up whatever the virus left, on the other hand.
I think the violence we are seeing is not the problem but rather symptom of the problems. It is a broken functionality of the non-formal and cultural institutions particularly the family structure.
Why do the young and ageing clash?
In the case of this boy beating the grandmother, salient issues of belonging, parentage and discipline are discerned. Family stakeholders must get back to the cultural basics. We who are here must stop watching our children scattering all over, but should get them in one place to receive appropriate teachings.
In Uganda, and perhaps most African societies just as Nankwanga and Neema (Nankwanga & Neema, 2019) put it, grandparents, who are in need of help are givers of help. But how do these grandparents get the right teachings from already burdened, tired, old, and poor grannies? Let’s get our children together for better teachings. If we really have to burden our grandparents in to help take care of a few of our children, we should support them using household-based approaches.
The government is doing something
In my opinion, the government of Uganda is doing a wonderful job of helping senior citizens enjoy their old age. The Expanding Social Protection Program (ESP) that delivers unconditional monthly cash the old (over the age of 80), though still largely externally funded has, as of 2019 supported 80 districts, with plans of covering all the 135 districts by 2021. The ESP is one government program you can visibly witness the success stories of. Go speak with the beneficiaries of the project and you’ll be amazed at what that small money has done.
What do we make of the ESP?
I can, therefore, vividly say that cash is the best gift for any person because the recipient uses it in the most self-desired way. When financially guided, money does wonders irrespective of amounts. If you have been keen, all the marriage fundraising I’ve had the opportunity to make decisions on, I have always pushed for cash gifts and I’ll continue to do so.
How can we get away with elder abuse?
It’s simple, don’t beat them, have them do some sort of an income-generating activity—those that are simple and fun for them. No matter the amount, they always make the most of everything as they attract the grandchildren around them. I am reminded of that one that I bumped into my father with a whole bunch of young people gathered around him, with some eating while others were drinking after some work around the home. When asked why all the party? He goes “. Nginingini kibito ki dwol” An Acholi saying that literally means it is possible when you give somebody something.
Let’s check our readiness
Now the question is, are our senior citizens having the ‘Dwol’ whether provided by Government or people around them? There is no doubt our economy is monetized and the young people are more likely to act less violently to the elders who also ‘support’ them through economic means of life or pose less burden on them.
Odong Wycliff is a child Protection Officer. Copy Editor – Odota Joel