Muchaneta Chimuka – Senior Reporter
COVID-19 has changed the lives of elderly people from social well-being to the supportive services that they used to get from stakeholders and well-wishers, after everything came to a sudden halt as support pillars got crippled economically following the pandemic.
This is the scenario which is facing twenty elderly persons residing at Society of the Destitute Aged (SODA) in Highfield, Harare.
Most of them are aliens who came from Malawi, South Africa and Zambia to work in the country before 1980 and ended up losing contact with their relatives.
Home manager for SODA, Ms Emilia Mukaratirwa said life has never been the same at the home since the outbreak of covid-19 in Zimbabwe as the elderly are now finding it hard to cope with the current conditions.
“Way back, we used to give them an opportunity to go out and meet various communities and some who are into plumbing could also do part time work but because of covid-19 all has ceased. We are now keeping our gates closed inorder to protect them because they are a high risk sector in as far as covid-19 is concerned due to their age which increases their vulnerability,” said Ms Mukaratirwa.
However, this has created a huge conflict between the caregiver and the elderly who cannot simply understand this sudden change.
“We are trying by all means to explain to them about the impact and effects of covid-19 on them and more often we expose them to media messages – we bought them a television set on which they can see what is happening across the globe.
“At times they admit after seeing many people dying but as time goes on they start challenging, so it’s a struggle considering their age and level of understanding. Sometimes they shout at the caregivers saying, ‘Hatidi kuitwa mabhanditi pano anoswera akatenherwa’ (We are not prisoners whom you keep on detaining),” she said.
Donor fatigue has proved to be another problem at the home.
“We used to rely on donors and well-wishers but now they are reduced in numbers due to economic hardships and travel restrictions worsened by the outbreak of covid-19. Some companies have since closed hence even individuals who used to support are now struggling to look after own families.
“This is a big surprise to our elderly who often used to mix and mingle with visitors from different setups. The elderly are traumatised and are failing to cope as we try to offer them maximum protection. They often ask as to why people are no longer visiting them,” said Mrs Mukaratirwa.
She said the elders need drugs, food, clothing and blankets among other basic needs.
“Their social life has been affected leading to stress and fatigue. Some might even attempt to flee in order to meet their colleagues outside. Currently we do not have even a single vehicle for the institution and that is forcing us to use public transport because we have to collect their drugs, food and other special needs and its risky because at the end of the day we would go back to the institution and mix with the them.
“If we could have a bus or a small vehicle life would be easy because we have to move door to door mobilising for resources and at one time we can take out our elderly to reduce the ‘detention fatigue’,” she said.
SODA has a big vegetable garden and a grinding mill but all is in vain due to water challenges and inadequate equipment.
Ms Mukaratirwa said their hope is to make sure that the elderly get tested for covid-19 in line with the Government policy but lack of funds is hindering the process.
Ms Mukaratirwa appreciated the covid-19 support that they got from the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, Tilda Foundation and Medical and Dental Private Practioners Zimbabwe Association who assisted with sanitizers, masks and other personal protective equipment.
Sekuru Domingo Zakoni (88) said he is tired of staying indoors.
“Things have changed because of this corona virus ‘animal’ we used to meet our friends in Mbare, sharing cigarettes and ideas but now its history. We pray that interventions to are speeded up such that our lives can be restored,” he lamented.
Sekuru Maxwell Tendayi (74) said people who used to offer them part time work are no longer forthcoming.
“Locals used to give us part time work depending with our skills, so here are professional plumbers, gardeners but because of covid-19 we cannot do those chores hence our pockets are dry and we are not happy at all. We know about the disease because we once experienced a similar one some years back but we were still young,” he said.
For those who wish to assist the home can contact Mrs Emilia Mukaratirwa the Home Manager on 0772314217 0r 0713149874