Family Crisis: Threat to Survival of the Elderly Population in Africa 

By

Oweyegha-Afunaduula

The family is in crisis. No doubt about it. Conflicts between couples, mushrooming poverty, mushrooming (multiple taxation) debilitating oppressive laws, plummeting and fluctuating prices for family production, declining health care and quality,  disintegrated, poor education for children, declining parental care, unemployment of children in whom parents have life-long investment, illicit drug addiction among children, homosexuality, abortions, immorality, declining spiritual development, selfish and greedy leadership predating on the family, et cetera constitute the family crisis that is now threatening human survival.

The family is the primordial unit of society, structurally and functionally. When it is strained and stressed, internally society is strained and stressed. When it collapses, society degrades towards collapse. Human survival becomes problematic.

Since these young men often resort to harassing their 70+ years old and retired parents for help and support, one wonders what advice can the parents receive on how to deal with the young people.

In developed countries, it is not enough for parents to educate their children. They have also to get jobs for them; or else tolerate their children staying with or depending on them for extended periods of time.

In poor countries such as Uganda, parents getting jobs for their children is most unlikely, unless the parents are in power parents are in or close to power.

In Uganda ethnicity and nepotism have ensured, and continue to ensure, that undeserving children get fixed in private and public sector jobs. Increasingly  few get jobs on merit.

Most parents are marginalised and are living in debilitating poverty. Their children, even with Masters degrees, walk up and down streets looking for unavailable jobs.

Adults of 45+ years have not cared to set up homes, and often resort to harassing their 70+ years old retired parents for hel and support.  In fact some may even refuse to leave the residences or homesteads of their parents. Some even start demanding for property and land from the aged parents, yet the property and land belong to their parents.

One of the reasons might be that those adult children either do not have the capacity to take care of themselves or have wasted their resources or opportunities, and turn to their parents for harassment. Another reason might be that some parents with financial capacity babysit their big children for too long, thereby disorienting them.

Yet another reason might be that parents no longer advise their children to be self-reliant. They want their children to be near them.

In the past, at least in Busoga, Uganda, as soon as a young man turned 18, he was forced out of the house, encouraged to build own house and start making own family. However, today parents can stay with their big children under one roof and continue suffering the consequences, which might include being killed so that they can take the house and property, which they never worked for. It is like in monarchical societies in which a grown up palace boy may connive with his mother so that the monarch is killed or driven out of the palace and the boy takes over as the monarch.

In a way the children are what they are because that is how their parents nurtured them to be: over dependent on them. The children, however big, do not think beyond their parents.

It is still possible for the children to become wise and build homes in quality environments, not exposed to the kind of pollution that homes in cities and towns are.

Parents in cities chose glorified loneliness and have no alternative but to leave their homes for their children and seek refuge in homes for the elderly where they associate with other elderly people. That is if such homes exist.

The rural community still cares through the extended family system. The rural community is still a unity, not an aggregate of individuals, which a town or city is.

Care of the elderly in rural areas by the State should be moulded on the model of Community rather than individual. Invest in community, not individuals!