Culture breaks down: Children neglect parents

Recently, Help Age Zimbabwe, an organisation promoting the welfare of the elderly, had to intervene to help out an aged man who was living in a shack in Tynwald in Harare after being abandoned by his son.

Old people at Batanai Old People's Home
Old people at Batanai Old People’s Home

In a related incident, the same organisation stepped in after it was alerted to the plight of another senior citizen in Mount Pleasant who was roaming the streets after being ejected from home by his daughter.

When Help Age arrived to take the elderly man, the daughter suddenly arrived in a Mercedes Benz and whisked him away.

Another elderly citizen who decided to erect a makeshift shelter along Mukuvisi River said he had seven children, all working, but none was ready to live with or fend for him. The man, who identified himself as Sekuru Phiri, said five of his children lived and worked outside the country while the remaining two were in Zimbabwe.

“My ordeal started when my wife died and my children started abusing me. I lived with one of them in Mabvuku but he ordered me out of his house after some time. I am of Malawian origin and was forced to come and live in the open here,’’ Phiri said.

These cases indicate an increasing trend whereby vulnerable elderly people are being neglected by their children and resort to staying on the streets. Zimbabwean tradition compels children to look after their parents in old age. Help Age Zimbabwe Communication Officer, Conrad Gweru, said most of the old people they take in are victims of neglect by their care givers at home. “We have genuine cases of people who do not have relatives to look after them. It is saddening to note that cases of neglect from adult children are on the rise.

“In some cases we have affluent members of society neglecting their biological parents. We also have cases whereby we take in a senior citizen and the children come to claim him or her, only for the elderly person to resurface complaining of ill-treatment,’’ said Gweru. His organisation is giving modest grants to homeless aged persons from both urban and rural communities across the country, most of whom it is housing at its shelters.

The elderly often find themselves in the streets because of bad relations with their children. But commentators maintain that even in cases where the parents are to blame for the poor relationships with their children, the latter have a social and moral obligation to look after them.

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