BOX 6-1Case Study 1: Female Living Alone, Viwandani

She is 82 years old and has been living alone for the past year after her two adopted children were admitted to a boarding school, which also serves as a rehabilitation center. She ran away from her matrimonial home 20 years ago to escape physical abuse from the husband who had married two other wives after she could not bear children. She settled in this community and did various casual jobs until she decided to become self-employed as a hawker of secondhand clothes in the streets of Nairobi. She stopped the business after hawkers were banned from operating in the streets, and she has not been employed since. She was also finding it difficult to continue hawking after she was hit by a vehicle and her leg was seriously injured. She owns the house she currently occupies but the house has burned down a couple of times.

About 10 years ago she decided to adopt a set of twins from a woman who had planned to abandon the children after delivery. Her adopted children got into bad company and became delinquent, refusing to go to school. To salvage the situation, she took the children to a rehabilitation center, where all their expenses and upkeep are taken care of by a religious group running the center. The children do not come home to visit her even during holidays, but she does visit them once in a long while.

She relies on well-wishers, including neighbors and relief organizations, to provide her with food and water. A religious organization also provides her with free health care. She is able to do household chores with little difficulty. One disadvantage of living alone, according to her, is that there is no one to assist her at times of difficulty. Living alone, however, also has its advantages because she is catering only to her own needs. According to her, “If you feel hungry, you feel the hunger alone. If you cook food, you cook your own which you know it is enough for two days or one only.”

From: 6, The Situation of Older People in Poor Urban Settings: The Case of Nairobi, Kenya

Cover of Aging in Sub-Saharan Africa
Aging in Sub-Saharan Africa: Recommendation for Furthering Research.
National Research Council (US) Committee on Population; Cohen B, Menken J, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006.
Copyright © 2006, National Academy of Sciences.

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