Ageing and its problems in the era of HIV/AIDS in the Mafikeng Local Municipality of the North West Province of South Africa
The aim of this study was to examine the socio-economic and demographic problems affecting the elderly in the era of HIV/AIDS, with a specific focus on the Mafikeng Local Municipality of the North West Province of South Africa. These include issues of poverty, health, violence, lack of housing, limited funds and the responsibilities of care-giving and its burden. Two primary sources of data were used. In the first instance, a structured questionnaire was used to collect data from 506 elderly households randomly selected from rural and urban enumeration areas in the Mafikeng Local Municipality. In the second instance, an instrument was designed for focus group discussions on HIV/AIDS and how these impact on the elderly. The focus groups consisted of elderly care givers who were carefully selected from centres where they usually met to discuss their common challenges in as far as care-giving is concerned. Bivariate analysis was used to establish any relationship between variables while multi-variate was used to show the predictor variables. The study found that the main problems faced by the elderly include income poverty, lack of access to health services, physical safety, lack of respect from the community, poor housing and living conditions. The main effect of HIV/ AIDS on the elderly was that related to the caring of both their own sick children and their often orphaned grandchildren following the death of one or both of their parents due to HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. This involves their healthcare, clothing, education and the provision of food not to mention emotional support. Older women in particular provide the bulk of the care for the adults and the young children while they are themselves at a great risk of being infected by the HIV/ AIDS virus. This study ultimately provided insights into the socio-economic and demographic issues still affecting the elderly. Although this study focused on a particular area of the North West Province, thus limiting its overall findings, in terms of area, it does give an indication of the concerns that require urgent attention especially those who have taken up the role of care-giving throughout South Africa, a nation that is worst affected by the HIV/ AIDS pandemic. In light of the main findings, the study recommends a drastic change in the pension scheme for this category of the population, user-friendly health services, direct education support for the orphans and access to proper nutrition.