Care of the Elderly

The Problem:

Elderly people in rural Kenya face a number of the following issues:

Access to Medical Treatment Most people in the Sarambei area are subsistence farmers and so savings are extremely rare. The elderly in the community can no longer work and so they find it particularly difficult to afford unexpected medical expenses. Transport to our medical centre can also be an issue if there are long distances involved.
Social Isolation Many elderly people are living alone and they can often go days without seeing anyone. Many who come to us for medical treatment stay at the facility long after their treatment has ended, using the opportunity to interact socially with others.
Medical Issues High blood pressure, arthritis and osteoporosis are major issues among the elderly in Sarambei and are often only diagnosed when a patient presents with another ailment.
Nutrition The financial difficulties experienced these elderly people mean that they usually do not have access to a varied diet, subsisting mostly on maize and beans, with little or no fruit or vegetables. Thus malnourishment is a major issue among this group.
Cleanliness The elderly people who live alone have nobody to help them to clean either themselves or their clothes and so poor hygiene is a very real issue, with many presenting with fungal infections, especially on the feet.

The Solution:

With generous funding from the Kiltegan Fathers in Ireland, we are now running monthly social gatherings for the eldery where we hope to address some of the issues faced by this group.

The meetings take place on the grounds of our medical facility and all elderly people in the area are invited. As well as being a social outlet for attendees, they are invited to partake of the following services:

So far this program has been a huge success - for our very first meeting we hired busses to bring participants from the surrounding areas and despite expecting a crowd of 30, over 50 turned up! The attendees thoroughly enjoyed the day - they love to get out into the community and really benefit from the social interaction as well as the free medical care.

There has been such huge support locally for this program that the number of participants has grown steadily since. We have been overwhelmed by how enthusiastically the elderly have embraced this program so we are very eager to expand and cater to as many elderly people as possible.

Such a program has the potential to have a very positive impact on the elderly people in the community. Obviously it will allow their medical needs to be met in a more reliable and cohesive manner, but we also hope that it will address some of the social issues they face. We already run a similar disability program which has served to create more awareness of these otherwise-marginalised people and they are now viewed as members of the community instead of existing on the fringes. We would hope that the same will happen with this elderly group.

While the gatherings themselves are only for elderly participants, having them at our dispensary makes them more visible to the community at large. We would hope that this will encourage their neighbours to visit and check up on them occasionally. As part of the program we will visit each participant at home and visit their neighbours to encourage them to check in on them.