Tag Archives: Sophie Okolo

Exercise, Hip Hop-eration and the Impact of Dance on New Zealand’s Elderly

As people age, body systems and cognitive functional abilities decline at various levels. A person’s mobility is also compromised, making it hard to maintain balance, strength and stability. It is widely known that exercise contributes to increased longevity as well as a diverse range of benefits that promote optimal and holistic health for all.

The effectiveness of frequent physical activity and exercise can reduce the risk of falls, strengthen muscles and promote regeneration within the body. Universal exercise guidelines suggest that multi-modal or varied forms of physical activity are the most appropriate for older people. Multi-modal programs for this population generally include cardiovascular training, strengthening exercises, and flexibility and balance workouts.

Photo Credit: Justin C.
Photo Credit: Justin C.

In New Zealand, there is a hip hop street-dance group comprising seven older adults ranging from age 71 to 96. Called the world’s oldest dance group by Guinness World Records, Hip Op-eration Crew are the current world title holders, performing hip hop dance to promote positive attitudes to ageing. The group has various disabilities including blindness, deafness, arthritis and heart disease but dancing helps to manage these conditions as any kind of physical activity benefits overall health.

When a person exercises, the brain releases chemicals called endorphins to fight stress. “These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria”, according to Fast Company. So exercise produces endorphins that make people feel good. This is important because older people who are struggling with confidence or low spirits can implement an exercise routine as recommended by their doctor.

To date, Hip Op-eration has garnered positive responses worldwide including features in news media. The group was founded in 2012 by Billie Jordan who also manages the crew. In fact, the group are neighbours from Waiheke Island of New Zealand who use hip hop dance to form stronger connections with young people. Jordan recently gave an inspirational Ted Talk that was followed by a performance from Hip Op-eration. The crew has also performed and/ or competed at other events including:

  • New Zealand National Hip Hop Championships in 2013 and 2014
  • World Hip-Hop Dance Championship in 2013
  • Taipei Arena, Taiwan to an audience of 15,000 in 2014

These achievements have resulted in a documentary called “Hip Hop-eration” which chronicles the group’s memorable adventures including their performance at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in Las Vegas.

Hip Hop-eration won two Moa awards for Best Documentary and Best Director as well as glowing reviews from newspapers in New Zealand. The crew shows that a person is never too old to have fun and exercise is important for older people with or without disabilities. As the founders of Hip Hop believed, it is not about limitations but about possibilities – regardless of age or physical ability. Check out the trailer for Hip Hop-eration!

Sophie Okolo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Global Health Aging.

Hazel Dompreh is currently a Diversional/ Recreational Therapist at a nursing home in New South Wales, Australia.

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Menopausal Experiences Among Major Ethnic Groups in the U.S.

The world’s population is rapidly aging and women make up the majority of seniors in every country due to their higher life expectancy. There will be over 60 million peri- and post-menopausal women in the United States by 2030 and about 1.2 billion throughout the world.

Menopause Experiences in the United States

In the U.S., menopause often begins at the age of 51 with most women experiencing hot flashes and other symptoms like vaginal dryness and joint pain, according to the National Institute on Aging. While most studies have not focused on ethnic populations in the United States, a recent study by the Western Journal of Nursing Research found that certain ethnicities in the U.S. are more prone to menopausal symptoms. The study documented specific ethnic differences in the number and severity of symptoms among four major ethnic groups (Non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanic, African Americans, and Asians) and focused on women ages 40-60 since most women experience menopause around the age of 50.

According to the study, Hispanic women reported night sweats and hot flashes more frequently than non-Hispanic white women, although other symptoms were less common. Hispanic women also reported significantly larger numbers of total symptoms, physical symptoms, and psychosomatic symptoms than Asian women. African American women reported a significantly larger number of psychosomatic symptoms than Asian women, and non-Hispanic white women reported significantly larger numbers of total symptoms, physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and psychosomatic symptoms than Asian women.

Osteoporosis and Menopause

Osteoporosis is a progressive form of bone loss common among postmenopausal women. About 70 percent of women in the United States have osteoporosis by the age of 80 and about 15 percent of non-Hispanic white women in the country eventually experience an osteoporosis-related hip fracture, according to the John Hopkins Arthritis Center. The development of osteoporosis is associated with lack of estrogen after menopause but hormone replacement therapy has been found to reduce the risk of the disease among women.

Interestingly, research has found that estrogen levels may be one factor that influences the development of osteoporosis in women, although ethnicity and lifestyle might be more important. For instance, 10 percent of Hispanic women over 50 have osteoporosis, according to the California Hispanic Osteoporosis Foundation. There are probably several explanations for the lower osteoporosis rates, aside from genetics. Ultimately, a more labor-intensive lifestyle and diet rich in phytoestrogens help guard against bone loss.

Photo Credit: Pain Pix
                                                               Photo Credit: Pain Pix

Conclusion

Specific differences exist for particular ethnic groups of menopausal women in the U.S. These differences are useful for targeting efforts to promote strategies to reduce menopausal symptoms and make best use of health promotion efforts such as adopting healthy-eating habits and leading an active lifestyle.

Sophie Okolo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Global Health Aging.

Richard Gaines, MD is the President and Chief Medical Officer of HealthGains, a leading hormone optimization center founded in 2005. Dr. Gaines has more than three decades of experience as a healthcare executive and physician with a focus on hormone therapy and platelet rich plasma therapy.

How Social Factors Affect Diabetes Prevalence Among U.S. Hispanic Subgroups

Early this month, Global Health Aging published an article about the dangers of type 2 diabetes among older Hispanics. The focus will now be on the prevalence of this disease among Hispanics including the impact of age, food habits, urbanization and length of stay in the U.S.

Photo Credit: lucianvenutian
                                                    Photo Credit: lucianvenutian

People of Latino and Hispanic descent are at a high risk of type 2 diabetes and related conditions. In the August 2014 issue of Diabetes Care, a study found that the risk varies a great deal among specific subgroups and even based on other factors like how long they have lived in the United States.

According to the study, the prevalence of diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed) among Hispanics and Latinos of all groups was 16.9 percent for men and women compared to 10.2 percent for non-Hispanic whites. Prevalence varied a great deal when looking at subgroups. For example, individuals of Mexican descent had the highest prevalence at 18.3 percent while those of South American descent had the lowest prevalence of 10.2 percent. People of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent had a diabetes prevalence of 18.1 percent and those of Central American descent had a rate of 17.7 percent. More than 13 percent of people with Cuban descent had diabetes. This shows a strong correlation between diabetes and people of Hispanic descent in the United States. Many factors are responsible for the diabetes prevalence including unhealthy eating habits.

In the United States, Houston makes a great case study because of the city’s makeup and close location to Mexico and the Deep South. David Napier of University College London (UCL) states that “People used food as not only a reinforcement of tradition and ritual but also as a way of connecting socially. You’ve moved here from somewhere else, it’s a way to reinforce your identity, it’s a real cultural asset to have, but in a biological sense it’s not the best thing.” Nutrition is complex when tackling diabetes or obesity in Hispanic subgroups. This is why a flexible and targeted approach about healthy eating is necessary for fighting these conditions. Ultimately, the goal is not to get rid of traditional foods, but to find ways to make those foods healthier or introduce better options.

Other factors contributing to the diabetes prevalence include age, urbanization and length of stay in the U.S. The study published by Diabetes Care stated that diabetes rates increased significantly with age to 50 percent among Hispanic and Latino women by the age of 70 and 44 percent for men between ages 70 and 74. The study also reported that the longer someone lived in the U.S., the more likely they were to develop type 2 diabetes. Moreover, urban areas of Venezuela, Chile and Argentina are experiencing rising diabetes rates partly to traffic, crowded living conditions, air pollution, and a more sedentary lifestyle, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious global concern. Society needs to tackle the disease on all fronts because the consequences can be fatal. It is important to raise awareness of the complications and hope that medical professionals find new ways to reduce the burden of diabetes.

Sophie Okolo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Global Health Aging.

Parul Patel, DPM is the lead physician of Infinity Foot and Ankle, a podiatry practice with three locations in Texas. She has more than 11 years of experience in podiatric medicine. Dr. Patel specializes in podiatric care such as diabetic podiatry, preventative care and surgical podiatry.

Integrating Alternative Medicine with Geriatric Care in Australia

In the last 20 years, aromatherapy in geriatric care has grown extensively especially in the Oceania region. This treatment uses plant-derived, aromatic essential oils to promote physical and psychological well-being. Age-related conditions such as dementia and arthritis as well as respiratory diseases, blood pressure and skin changes can benefit greatly from aromatherapy.

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

A survey from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) identified significant use of self-prescribed complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for back pain regardless of education, income or urban/rural residency. CAM was among a range of care options but the study found that a large number of women aged 60-65 self-prescribed one or more CAM for back pain in the previous 12 months. The most common self-prescribed CAM was supplements, vitamins/minerals, yoga/meditation, herbal medicines and aromatherapy oils.

It was further noted that women who visited health professionals three or more times in the previous 12 months were more likely to self-prescribe CAM for back pain than those who did not. This study was useful in exploring the prevalence and characteristics of women who self-prescribe CAM for back pain. Medical professionals can integrate alternative medicine with geriatric care to treat ailments and improve quality of life for older adults.

While aromatherapy helps with a number of diseases, studies have mixed results when it comes to treating agitated behaviour in people with dementia. One study found that lavender oil had no discernible effect on affect and behaviour in Australian nursing home residents while another study reported that despite a downward trend in behaviours displayed, no intervention significantly reduced disruptive behaviour. These findings are important because older adults respond differently to alternative medicine. Individual needs must be considered and health professionals can assess the effectiveness of CAM.

Aromatherapy is a great way to manage symptoms of a chronic illness or relieve age-related discomfort. For instance, complementary therapy in palliative care such as Massage/aromatherapy, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch™ enhances regular symptom management, increases comfort, and more. This can help support the immune system as people get older. Aromatherapy is becoming increasingly popular especially since it improves quality of life during the aging process.

Sophie Okolo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Global Health Aging.

Sexual Health and Intimacy in Later Life

The concept that older adults cannot have intimacy or a satisfying sex life is misleading. One basic need involves emotionally based relationships which play a vital role in the overall human experience. People have a universal need to belong and to love and having intimate relationships provides social networks and emotional support to older adults.

Photo Credit: Alex Proimos
Photo Credit: Alex Proimos

As people grow older, they want and need to be close to others. This includes the desire to continue an active and satisfying sex life despite changes in sexual behavior. Older adults may be impaired by infirmity but relationship needs such as closeness and sexual desire still remain. Many seniors can have sexual relationships, and probably a few others find ways to maintain or rekindle intimacy and a satisfying sex life as they age.

Health plays a key role in the level of older adults’ sexual activity. Many chronic health conditions such as pain as well decreased sexual desires due to emotional or health problems can affect sexual health. Health professionals have known that sexual dysfunction is not only a major problem for relationships and mental health, but can be an indicator of serious physical health issues such as heart disease. Older adults need preventive health screenings to reduce sexual problems. In addition, older women can improve the quality of their sexual experiences by aggressively managing their health conditions.

Age does not protect seniors from sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, older adults who are sexually active may be at risk for diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, genital herpes, among other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It has been reported that the number of older adults with HIV/AIDS is growing. While casual sex offers only a moment of emotional intimacy. It does not provide the love and commitment of a serious relationship.

In conclusion, older adults need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, whether it comes from a social group or connections. This desire to belong can bring about companionship and intimacy among seniors. Sex and older adults is still a taboo in some societies and often ignored. It is paramount that sexual health becomes a vital component of the quality of life for seniors.

Sophie Okolo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Global Health Aging.

Max Lugavere, Bread Head and the Changing Face of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a scary disease. The thought of losing one’s mind while still alive is unsettling and it doesn’t get easier as cognitive and physical decline are closely related. Research has shown that all types of dementia experience mobility decline, even those progressing to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). As dementia progresses, decline in mobility is evident especially as gait and balance become impaired. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and an estimated 5.4 million Americans currently suffer from AD. Unlike other major diseases, it seems there is little or no solution to preventing or treating Alzheimer’s. HIV, Stroke and Heart disease have decreased significantly in the number of deaths but Alzheimer’s has greatly increased with devastating statistics. Clearly, the US has a crisis on its hands.

“People with Alzheimer’s disease live a long time, but require constant and very expensive care. They are prevented from working due to the debilitating nature of the illness and those who leave the workforce to care for a family member with Alzheimer’s impact economic productivity.”

While strong research investment is important, advocacy is even more crucial as it gets more people interested in putting an end to Alzheimer’s. In the past few years, millennials have also become strong advocates for issues concerning this disease. Organizations such as Hilarity for Charity and The Purple Elephant focus on the millennial generation and some of these organizations are even managed by millennials, a trend that is changing the face of AD. One millennial who is presenting a fresh take on Alzheimer’s is Max Lugavere. This 32-year-old filmmaker is working on a project that explores the impact of diets and lifestyles on brain health in a documentary called Bread Head. The trailer is fascinating especially as Max asks new questions about Alzheimer’s including the possibility of preventing the disease based on the choices we make.


Global Health Aging was pleased to interview Max Lugavere on his documentary as well as why millennials are starting to get interested in aging and health issues affecting older adults. We hope you find the interview informative.

Global Health Aging: BREAD HEAD asks new questions about Alzheimer’s disease. Do you think people can avoid Alzheimer’s even if they are predisposed to it (family history, heredity, etc)?
Max Lugavere: One thing is for sure—you can do everything “right” in accordance with the current science, and still get it, the same way that you can wear your seat belt all the time but still end up in a fatal car accident thanks to some fluke of bad luck. Science hasn’t provided us with a silver bullet just yet. HOWEVER, you can also greatly minimize your risk—quite easily in fact. My goal is to make people aware of the fact that Alzheimer’s is only determined by your genes for a VERY small number of cases. Less than 5%. For the rest of us, it’s the interplay between our genes and our lifestyles that determine our chances, for Alzheimer’s and for any number of other ailments. Our health is largely in our control—genes are not destiny!

Global Health Aging: The idea that Alzheimer’s is type 3 diabetes is groundbreaking! How does this change everything we know including the beta amyloid proteins that may cause Alzheimer’s?
Max Lugavere: The “type 3 diabetes” moniker is a hypothesis, and diabetes doesn’t cause Alzheimer’s, but it does greatly increase the risk. It does seem that they may be more like cousins, with a similar underlying pathology—meaning the mechanics behind the disease. The thing about type 2 diabetes (a biological disaster which has reached epidemic proportions in the States as well as in India, China, and throughout many emerging economies) is that it’s characterized by decreased sensitivity to insulin, and it’s diagnosed when you have too much blood sugar as a result of your cells not able to use glucose properly. But you can show decreased sensitivity in various organs, places of the body, before crossing the threshold where a full-blown T2D diagnosis is made; your brain being one of them. And this precedes the buildup of the plaques that clog Alzheimer’s brains by decades.

Max Lugavere

Global Health Aging: In the BREAD HEAD trailer, you pose the question about Alzheimer’s being inevitable or avoidable based on the choices we make. How did you come to exploring this idea?
Max Lugavere: I picked Alzheimer’s because it’s the most common form of dementia, but my interest and research goes beyond Alzheimer’s. I am concerned with not only preventing neurodegeneration, which begins in the brain decades before the first symptom, but also optimization. We live in a time where attention is the new limited resource; distraction is constant. It’s sort of like a kind of obesity of the mind. So I think anything we can do to maximize our cognitive health, the better and more enriched our lives will be.

Global Health Aging: Millennials are starting to get interested in aging and health issues affecting older adults. How can this trend affect the way society views aging and older adults?
Max Lugavere: I think it’s in part because the oldest millennial is now 35. Unlike previous generations, we were brought up with the tools of the internet. Information has been set free. We’ve also invested in human capital more than any previous generation. So I think we are more proactive about holding onto our health and even optimizing it. We’re the generation, after all, that’s ushering in the quantified self movement. It’s awesome to not only witness but to be a part of.

Global Health Aging: BREAD HEAD is innovative! What would you tell people who think nothing can be done to prevent Alzheimer’s as research has shown?
Max Lugavere: I’d tell them they need to get with the times. We’re finally at the end of the era of “diagnose and adios”. That said, we still have a long way to go, so in that sense, it’s imperative to support scientists that are continuing to do this incredibly vital research, both towards a cure and for prevention. It’s also important to look to technologies like my friends at Neurotrack that are devising brilliant ways of early diagnosis, which is key.

Acknowledgements and Further Information

I would like to thank Max Lugavere for taking the time to answer our questions. If you want more information on Max Lugavere, visit his website here.

Sophie Okolo is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Health Aging.

Aging with Autism in South America

As the world celebrated World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, the conversation around elderly with autism remained sidelined. Blog posts and comment boards were focused on children with autism, a standard practice that is common in other areas. For instance, a quick scan of entries in PUBMED, the National Library of Medicine database, shows that there is almost no literature on elderly with autism. It is pertinent that the experiences of older adults with autism are investigated and documented for available data. Older adults were once children and while some autism symptoms seem to decrease with increasing age, elderly with autism will not reach normal levels of social functioning.

autism
There is now evidence of increased prevalence of and knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) internationally. In Venezuela, the rate of autism is estimated at 1.1 per 1000 people, while the rate of autism spectrum disorder is estimated at 1.7 per 1000 people. Additionally, 1.5 million people have ASD in Brazil. Despite reports about underestimation of statistics, training in autism diagnosis and early detection should be promoted. Also, it is important to note that children will age even though most statistics focus on children.

Since autism goes undetected, health professionals should work to ensure that resources and services are available for elderly with autism. These include screening and diagnostic tools that are appropriate for older adults. Moreover, the Brazilian Public Health System suggests that autism research is necessary for treatment and intervention strategies to become more widespread. Autism is a life-long condition and while there are still unknowns about aging with autism, nations like Brazil and Venezuela can prepare for the future.

Sophie Okolo is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Global Health Aging.

The Problem with Being Old and Incarcerated

inmates
In the January issue of The New Statesman, Britain’s leading weekly magazine of politics, culture, and international affairs, Andrew Katzen examined elderly inmates in British prisons. His article, “Should we be sending the elderly to prison”, argues that British prisons are slowly turning into dysfunctional nursing homes. According to Katzen, Partner at Hickman & Rose, prison conditions for the elderly are tough and little, if any, rehabilitative purpose is served in holding them. His main point is that Britain’s aging population is causing an increase in the number of old people behind bars hence a new and improved prison reform has to be considered.

This topic is quite controversial because it focuses on criminals who have broken the law. Therefore we need to be mindful of how these offenses were committed and to whom, especially since both victim and perpetrator are human beings. The ethical component of this issue is complex because, while the range of offenses differ, the state of elderly care in prisons needs improvement. Before this article tackles the reasons, there are a few things that need to be clarified. This article is not whether the elderly deserve imprisonment or about the type of sentence older prisoners deserve. Everyone is entitled to their opinions due to strong views about this subject. As a health care professional, the goal is to improve the social and natural environments in order to better the health of marginalized populations.

The world’s population is aging. According to the National Institute on Aging, the number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2050. This trend may result in a shift in prison demographics as prisoners will grow older whether they are young or new. A prime example is 82-year-old Teresa de Jesus Tello who was incarcerated in a Peruvian prison for an alleged case of drug trafficking…and she isn’t the only elderly prisoner. In Peru, there are 2,500 inmates over the age of 60 in prisons. Most of the elderly women are imprisoned for drug trafficking. While prison reform is important, it is important to tackle these issues in a sensible and sensitive way, involving all facets of society such as the public and private sectors.

Katzen’s article also discusses the design of prison estates stating that current designs are only suitable for the young and able. Although the issue is important, he fails to take into account the extra costs needed to build prison estates that are suitable for older prisoners. In developed nations, this cost can result in a tax increase which is often debatable. Alternatively, developing nations can make a case for better living conditions as prisons can be characterized as hazardous and chaotic places for offenders.

Although this topic is complex, societies can start with meeting the most basic personal activities such as carrying their meals and washing themselves, especially if prisoners are unable to care for themselves. Addressing the existence of chronic illnesses in older prisoners is vital and designing new environments should be considered for easier access and mobility for older populations. Moreover, appropriate medical care needs to be a priority for older prisoners as this can improve quality of life. As societies start to tackle this issue, the goal should be to prevent prisons from turning into dysfunctional nursing homes.

Sophie Okolo is the Founder of Global Health Aging.

Africa Must Prepare for Aging Population Now

Photo Credit: United Nations Photo

As countries like Japan and Italy prepare for the challenges of an aging population, African countries are focusing on the need for youth empowerment. Youth make up the next generation of workers, parents, and leaders in Africa; hence investing in them is top priority for the continent’s transformation. While empowering youth is important, African nations cannot ignore the outcome of greatly increased birth rates.

Since Africa is the most youthful continent in the world – two-thirds of the continent’s 1.1 billion people are younger than 35 – what will happen when the youth become elderly citizens? And what will happen to elderly citizens if the continent does not plan for increased birth rates now? The rise in the number of elderly citizens may take a strain on families and the incidence of aging-associated diseases like cancer will hit an all time high.

This situation is especially complex because agencies like the World Health Organization and United Nations Population Fund support the use of contraceptives to space out births’ for maternal and child health. The use of contraceptives is a controversial issue in Africa as opponents may argue that contraceptives will prevent women from having children. Proponents for contraceptives may find the concept ludicrous although in countries like Germany, where the use of contraceptives is widely accepted, women have fewer children or no children. Having children or not is one’s personal choice; the concern is the result of choices that a nation made.

West African nations are among the continents most fertile – the average woman in Niger has nearly seven children in her lifetime. With the current youth population, increased birth rates and use of contraceptives, African nations are facing an unforeseen future. Currently, aging Africans are facing new problems including the changing practice of extended families taking care of elderly members. Children are now migrating to other nations for better opportunities, leaving their parents to care for themselves. If African governments do not address current problems as well as prepare for the increased birth rates, it is likely that the future will bring many challenges to the aging population and continent as a whole.

African countries that currently have large youth populations are poised to experience a potential demographic boost to their economies. While such countries will see this population age into the workforce, they will also experience rising proportions of seniors with this group. It is critical for governments to plan now for the future with smart government policies. Training citizens to embrace the aging process and raising awareness of the challenges associated with this stage of life is important. Companies should also be encouraged to work with the elderly so as to improve their health, lifestyle and wellness.

Equipping older adults with coping skills, and encouraging people of all ages – especially the youth – to not smoke, do more physical activity, and practice moderate alcohol consumption and good nutrition will pay good health dividends later in life.

Sophie Okolo is the Founder of Global Health Aging.

A Call to End Elder Abuse and Neglect in 2015

ap
Elder abuse continues to be a worldwide problem. This year, former minister of social welfare, Paurina Mpariwa, accused the Zimbabwean government of neglecting the elderly. Since the Older Persons Act was signed into law, the government has failed to implement the provisions including protection from all forms of abuse such as physical and psychological harassment and social neglect. Due to the global prevalence of elder abuse, the world observes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15 each year. WEEAD provides an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons. This event is achieved by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

The significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue has been acknowledged by the United Nations International Plan of Action. Elder abuse diminishes the quality of life of elders. For instance, neglect is a type of abuse that can be inflicted either by the elder’s caregiver or oneself. Signs of neglect include malnutrition and dehydration, poor hygiene, noncompliance to a prescription medication, and unsafe living conditions. In Africa, this abuse can cause the elderly to leave their homes and families. Since old age homes are not widespread and elder abuse is rarely reported, the elderly end up living on the streets. Elderly street begging is common in Africa and there are very few health systems that currently address the problem. In addition to being a marginalized and vulnerable group, elderly street beggars are at risk for diseases, malnutrition, and mental health issues.

It is unfortunate that elder abuse also happens in institutions of care like nursing homes and more. In Cape Town this year, an old age home was investigated for the alleged abuse of the elderly. According to the Department of Social Development, the allegations ranged from deaths due to poor treatment and human rights violations. The Department also stated that if there was a need to go to court, they would obtain an order to close the old aged home. As professionals in aging and health, these issues are troubling because they still persist with no lasting solution. Elder abuse can happen in families and institutions of care; places where elder abuse should not happen. Although the old age home in Cape Town was unregistered, which is a huge grievance, the main goal is for everyone to have dignity and respect for each other irrespective of age. Without this mindset, elder abuse can persist despite policy recommendations, health interventions, etc. The United States is a good example.

WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Everyone should make elder justice a priority by launching various initiatives such as old age homes or shelter homes in Africa. The shelter home provides greater protection and psychosocial assistance to the elderly especially those that are in family abandonment situations. These homes will help to decrease the incidence of street begging among the elderly since the elderly leave their own homes due to elder abuse. The shelter homes will also contribute to the elder’s social and economic conditions and thus retrieve the respect to people submitted to various abuses. In the long run, the elder’s quality of life will be improved.

Let’s take a stand against elder abuse and protect seniors today!

Sophie Okolo is the Founder of Global Health Aging