The recent closure of Kenwyn retirement home has lifted the lid on the plight of the elderly in the city.The Pietermaritzburg and District Care for the Aged (Padca) and privately-owned retirement homes and villages have confirmed that there is simply not enough space — as well as affordable care — for frail or retired people in the Msunduzi area. Safety is another issue highlighted by the Kenwyn home closure. Padca chairperson Peter Miller said prospective residents were put off by the “terrible area” full of crime and grime and the need for addditional security, which was too costly for the residents.The waiting lists for homes for the aged in the city can be as long as two years.A woman who is struggling to find a suitable home for her parents, aged 78 and 79, told The Witness she was in “panic mode” as many of the homes are either too expensive or have ridiculously long waiting lists.The Witness learned that the cost of accommodation for the elderly varies from R2 000 to R20 000 per month per individual needs and financial circumstances. According to Stats SA’s 2018 mid-year population estimates, there are 4,9 million people over 60 in South Africa and that number is rising rapidly. With frequent reports of elderly people being attacked, raped or murdered in their homes, the demand for comfortable, safe and secure accommodation for the elderly is rising. But local homes say the demand currently exceeds what their facilities can accommodate with waiting lists that can run to at least two years.Padca’s CEO Trevor Clowes said there are around 30 options for the aged in greater Pietermaritzburg but some are very expensive. Padca has four facilities — Riverside Park Home, Sunnyside Park Home, Woodgrove Retirement Village and Kurume.“The shortage in accommodation is experienced when the person only has a Sassa pension of R1 800 or a very limited income. “There are a handful of places that accommodate these cases, of which Padca’s Sunnyside Park Home is one,” he said. “There is currently no state facility that fulfils this demand in the greater Maritzburg area. However, the Department of Social Development does provide a limited subsidy for a set number of people in a predetermined set of circumstances,” he added.Clowes said Padca homes offer a range of services from independent living to residential accommodation with meals and a full 24-hour care. Prices range from R2 000 for independent living to R20 000 per month depending on care required.The waiting list for frail care is around two years.Woodgrove offers a sought-after range of Life Right options with prices from R325 000 to R2,1 million but there is a long waiting list. It is possible to place someone in urgent need immediately depending on various circumstances.Clowes said there is a high demand for accommodation for people dependent on their pensions, like Sunnyside. But running the facility is costing Padca millions of rands. The average cost of housing, feeding and caring for a resident at Sunnyside is R12 000, with most paying only a fraction of this. In the last financial year the home incurred a R4,2 million loss.Clowes said for this reason Padca cannot expand this type of service without help from the government or community at large.Nursing matron at Emuseni Old Age Home in Plessislaer, NE Dlamini, said they currently have 101 people on a waiting list and care for 55 residents.The waiting changes continuously as people die, making it difficult to estimate the waiting period.“The demand for facilities in poor rural areas is very high but we can only take in 55 elderly people in the whole of the Edendale and upper Edendale areas because the Department of Social Development only subsidises us for 55 people.”She said while many people might regard retirement homes as a luxury, they have become a much sought-after safe haven for vulnerable elderly people.“We hear and read about many horrific stories in the newspapers about how elderly people are killed, [abused or raped] every day.“Some have dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and they end up getting lost.”Dlamini said Emuseni sometimes struggles to get by.“I have social workers calling me every day begging me to take in elderly people who have been abandoned at hospitals, but I simply can’t help them.“We sometimes don’t even have basic medication like Panado for our residents because everything has to come out of our tight budget. It’s very hard,” she said.Dlamini said her efforts to get Msunduzi Municipality to intervene have fallen on deaf ears.CEO of the Marian Villa retirement village on Alexandra Road, Linda Rees, said the demand for accommodation there is also high. They have 136 people at the facility which caters for independent living, and frail care. She said despite the high demand for accommodation, they cannot expand as they have used up all available space. Rees advised people to apply early for accommodation in homes and not wait until they reached the stage they could no longer cope because they will battle to get in.