5 August 2004
Parliament’s select committee on social services is considering a draft law that seeks to empower older South Africans, recognising the skills and wisdom of older people as well as their right to care and protection.
The Older Persons Bill aims to empower older people, enforce punishment for any form of abuse, and initiate programmes and services – including adult basic education and poverty alleviation projects – catering specifically for the elderly.
Nomathemba Kela of the Department of Social Development said that although the Aged Persons Act of 1967 had been amended, it was still not responsive to the needs of older persons.
“We must look at a new developmental approach to the elderly, which the old Act does not provide for”, Kela said.
Kela said the new approach promoted by the new Bill recognises that the Constitutional rights and human dignity of the elderly should be upheld. It also recognises the skills and wisdom of older people, as well as their right to care and protection.
Kela said there are an estimated 3.3 million South Africans – roughly seven percent of the population – above the age of 60, about 63% of whom are women.
“The role of older persons in society has changed from needing to be cared for to that of caregivers”, Kela added. “The elderly are actually becoming second-time parents.
“Most elderly people are affected by poverty, especially in the current scenario where they have to be providers living on old age pensions”, she said.
The committee’s recommendations will be integrated into the Bill, while provincial public hearings on the proposed law will take place from 9-13 August. The Bill is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.