Time for the BGS to help in Africa?

Richard Walker is a Consultant Geriatrician at North Tyneside General Hospital, and Honorary Professor of Ageing and International Health at Newcastle University. He has a research interest in non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and is Associate International Director for SSA for the Royal College of Physicians, London. He is the Clinical Lead for the Northumbria / Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre health link and Chair of the Movement Disorders Society African Task Force. In this blog article he discusses the growing challenge of ageing in Africa.

The ageing population in Africa is exploding. In Nigeria alone, for example, there are now more than 6 million people aged over 65 years. Despite this, worryingly, services are particularly ill prepared to meet the needs of this group. Compounding this challenge is the fact that there’s a real lack of Geriatrics’ teaching in undergraduate medical curricula in SSA. Furthermore, we found that there’s very few ‘Geriatricians’ in SSA outside South Africa, with most countries having none at all. Continue reading

Esther Clift’s African Blog Series; Part 2 ‘The concept of Mzee and Heshima’

Esther Clift is a Consultant Practitioner Trainee in Frailty with Health Education Wessex. This is the second part of a four part BGS blog series about her time in Africa. She tweets @EstherClift

estherIt is well recognised that in much of East Africa the concept of ‘Heshima’ or respect for ‘Wazee’ is still widely practised. The term “Mzee” describes an older person, often with greying hair, but has a tone of respect and deference to it. I heard the term used widely, from young white men joshing their father, to students upholding a faithful teacher, but always with a tone of love and respect. There is no direct translation into English were our language for ageing is often loaded with a derogatory tone and disliked by one group or another. Phenomenology is a challenge we are all too familiar with in Medicine for Older People! We often refer to such expression as an example of how Western cultures need to learn from those of the global South. Continue reading

Voice of the Elderly: Geriatrics in Uganda

Kamusiime Zadok is a social gerontologist and founder of Voice of the Elderly, a community based organization aiming to support older people in the Kabale district of Uganda. He is an expert in health and social policy for older people in Uganda, and the effects of ageism on the welfare of the elderly.shutterstock_129328802

As with any country, there are many older people in Uganda who are still active, healthy and independent. However, those who are frail, or in poor health, lack the social support structures available in the UK and are entirely dependent upon their families for support. This is coupled with limited treatment options for even simple conditions such as cataracts, an almost complete absence of monitoring for chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, and a lack of expertise in geriatric medicine the country.

Voices of the Elderly is a Ugandan Non-Governmental Organisation which aims to improve the state of the elderly in Kabale, South-West Uganda. Continue reading