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