BOX 6-4Case Study #5: Man Living Alone, Korogocho

The subject is almost 90 years old and has been living alone for the past 5 years. His three children moved out of Nairobi to different parts of the country, and his wife moved in with their son to help look after her son’s children. The wife visits him in the city frequently. He pays someone to come twice a week to do household chores for him, such as cleaning and cooking. He used to run businesses that were able to sustain him and his entire family. He had even employed a number of people to help him manage the businesses, including all his children. However, after he was diagnosed to be diabetic, a lot of funds were diverted to treating his ailment, forcing all his businesses to collapse. This also contributed to his children leaving the community to earn a living elsewhere. He owns the structure that he now occupies, including six other dwelling units (rentable rooms) that are rented out; some of these units were unoccupied during the time of the interview.

He is currently under medication and has to buy all the drugs himself, sometimes assisted by his children. His ailment has depleted his resources and assets and he is on a special diet according to doctor’s advice. He says “I may want medication but it is expensive at these private clinics, so I wonder what to do. This is what finishes our money. Medicine is expensive. The amount you pay for government hospital wards and the health services is as much as you pay to private clinics for one or two pills. Especially for us diabetics, one tablet costs twenty shillings. To get a packet of ten tablets is two hundred shillings. Yet you must buy the medicine, you have no choice.” The diabetic condition has affected his eyesight and he has undergone an operation to remove cataract from his eyes.

His view is that without money one cannot access health care. He prefers to seek treatment in government-run facilities as opposed to private clinics or hospitals. He argued that health facilities should have special services for older people to treat particular ailments and also special diets if they are admitted as inpatients. Older people should also be cared for by the government by providing them with food, shelter, or a monthly allowance. He considers an older person to be someone with disability who requires constant care. On special services for older people, he said “I think old people should be separated from the rest. They should have their own hospital. It should be based on a certain cutoff age. If the old have their own ward in a hospital, it would be good because they will be fed as old people. As it is now, when patients are being fed on bones, even the old people are given the bones to eat.”

When asked what his greatest wish was, he says he wished to be reunited with his children and that the children would come back to live with him. He acknowledges that this is not possible because the children have settled down wherever they are, and there will be nothing to keep them going should they decide to move back.

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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