As South Africans struggle to make ends meet, many do not have the time or means to take care of the older members of their families, leaving them without proper care and attention.
But some Johannesburg residents are bucking the trend by volunteering to bring a bit of joy and support into the lives of elderly people through the Adopt A Gogo/Mkhulu programme.
This programme was started last year by Fraser Thabethe who was moved by the plight of many elderly people who were not cared for, lonely and sometimes neglected. The initiative has grown swiftly with more than 300 elderly people now being adopted.
Thabethe said they started the programme as a way of giving back to the community.
“We worked with community leaders to identify possible adopters, we screen them and train them. They do not stay with them in their houses but come to visit them every day and they write a report and hand it to social workers who then take necessary steps,” he said.
One of the residents who adopted a gogo, Jabulani Nthoroane, from Diepkloof, Soweto, said he decided to join the programme because of his love for elderly people.
“I was raised by my great grandmother and we were very close, she was good to me and ever since then I wanted to take care of older people. I do this without getting paid and not expecting anything in return. I visit my gogos three times a week and assist with what they need and if it’s beyond my control, I write a report to social workers who come and assist,” he said.
Nthoroane has adopted four gogos whom he sees every day.
“They are my friends and I love them. When I’m there we chat about their needs and I have also provided a butler door for an mkhulu who lives alone. “It brings me happiness when my elders are happy and taken care of,” he said.
He also goes and collects medication for them as they would otherwise have to wait in long queues at clinics.
“It is sad that many people don’t take care of their elderly and sometimes even ill treat them. All they need is love and attention,” he said.
Gauteng MEC for social development Nandi Manyathula Khoza has urged people to bring back the spirit of ubuntu and care for their neighbours.
“We want elders to be taken care of. They must have food, shelter and if they are too old to be taken care of, they must be sent to old age homes,” she said.
She has called heads of Johannesburg’s Age in Action unit, faith-based organisations and Adopt a Gogo to raise awareness on various forms of abuse and engage in dialogue, consultation and representation of older persons in community structures and other community based organisations to explore if they are doing enough in education on the rights of the elderly.