Older women becoming the new breadwinners in SA – study

2010-09-27 09:09

South Africa was in dire need of an overhaul of health and social services to provide effective care for people older than 50, researchers said in a study released today.

Older women were under increasing pressure to take over breadwinner responsibilities in communities affected by Aids, concluded the study, titled Growing older in Africa and Asia: Multicentre study on ageing, health and wellbeing.

“According to the study, changes in the social structure and roles and responsibilities of older people, particularly women, have already occurred,” said a media statement released by Wits University on the research, which was conducted by professors Stephen Tollman and Kathleen Kahn.

“In this new reality, older women face additional responsibilities such as nursing their sick adult children and taking care of their grandchildren,” added Kahn.

“In many households, older people have also become the main breadwinners through their social pension, which is sometimes the family’s only source of income.”

Kahn said in developing countries the population of people older than 50 was expected to grow from 35 million in 2006 to more than 69 million in 2030.

“The high HIV prevalence, together with an ageing population and the emerging epidemic of non-communicable diseases, will put immense pressure on already weak health services as well as on society as a whole, with important changes in household structure and in the roles and responsibilities of older people,” said Kahn.

In South Africa, the proportion of the population aged 50 and over has slightly increased from 14.8% in 2006 to 15% in 2009, and was expected to reach 19% in 2030.

The research shows that elderly men have better self-reported health than elderly women.

“Self-reported poor health and higher levels of disability were more common in women, those older than 70 years, and those with lower levels of education, single and unemployed,” says the study, which was published in the Global Health Action journal.

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