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“Sihlukumezekile”: the elderly talk of their experiences of elder vulnerability in KwaSwayimani area.

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Background: The problem of elder abuse is undeniable and can be found everywhere in the world including South Africa and the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. Robinson (2016) asserts that in the United States alone, more than half a million reports of vulnerabilities that predispose the elderly to abuse reach authorities every year, and millions of more cases go unreported. Rationale of the study: The rationale of the study is to explore and understand vulnerabilities faced by elderly women in KwaSwayimane Area under Umshwathi Local Municipality where 7 elderly women were raped and assaulted, and the 4 elderly women robbed and murdered during the year 2013. Research methodology: A qualitative descriptive design was adopted in this study. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and analyzed using thematic analysis from a purposive sample of 09 elderly women attending KwaSwayimane Day Care Centre. Results: The results indicated that vulnerabilities that predispose the elderly to abuse are prevalent amongst elderly women especially those who are widowed, living alone, in isolation, and illiterate. The study finding also revealed that the most common vulnerability was as a result of criminal attacks such as housebreakings mostly during pension pay days to steal and rob the elderly of their pension monies and other belongings. The results also showed that financial exploitation by close family members occurred in the home environment where elderly women with their meagre pensions had to take care of their family members such as their unemployed adult children and the grandchildren. Lastly, the results showed that the elderly need various and prompt inter-departmental interventions in-order to make their situation better. Recommendations: This study recommends a multidisciplinary approach to elder care and management in line with the KZN Premier’s Operation Sukuma Sakhe Programme which co-ordinates the delivery of governmental integrated services to communities. It also recommends further research that would explore elder vulnerability as it occurs in the community. The study recommends social work curriculum to include a detailed gerontology syllabus since there is a fast-growing number the elderly in our society who need special social work care.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.