A study on the role of old age institutions in the care of elderly people in the context of hyperinflation : the case of Mucheke, Masvingo, Zimbabwe.
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Globally, old age has been identified as one of the key causes of poverty. Governments all over the world have taken the initiative to introduce policies aimed at protecting the elderly from poverty. However in most developing countries, the plight of the elderly often falls on the informal systems of care such as the extended family. This often leaves the elderly more vulnerable to poverty as the informal systems of care are becoming increasingly unreliable. This study explored the impact which an economic crisis characterized by hyperinflation and high unemployment had on the lives of elderly persons in a suburb called Mucheke in Masvingo, Zimbabwe, focusing mainly on their social networks. Most of the literature on Zimbabwe emphasizes that often people who are institutionalized in old age homes in Zimbabwe were those people who had weaker social networks, particularly due to the fact that they were of foreign origin. These individuals did not have an extended family they could rely on in Zimbabwe, whilst at the same time their links with their families had been broken due to a prolonged stay in a foreign country. Black locals rarely sought to be institutionalized in old age homes. However with the economic crisis, many facets of the elderly people’s lives were altered. These alterations included the depletion of the extended family’s capacity to continue its role of providing care to the elderly as resources were limited. The government on its own had been paralyzed by the economic crisis and no longer provided care for the destitute and desperate elderly people as had been the norm. The elderly established different coping strategies to see them through the crisis. The civil society also began to play a more central role in assisting the needy as the crisis worsened.