Gerontology and Aging in Zambia

Posted by Oliver Mupila on Mon, Mar 1, 2010  
No of Views(5748)


Gerontology and aging in Zambia…


            “The abuse of elderly people in Zambia continues to be a hidden, growing problem daily”…


By Oliver Mupila


The average citizen may find it hard to believe that the problem of the abuse of elderly people exists. In my studies as an advocate against elder abuse, I found out that elder abuse is a widespread phenomenon, affecting thousands of vulnerable people across all classes of society in Zambia.

Being largely hidden, elder abuse is difficult for the professional community to address effectively. Only with the support of the public can we ensure that cases are brought to light and appropriate actions are taken.

There is growing evidence from a number of our communities that elder abuse and violence against older people is a major, though hidden, problem in Zambia, since elder abuse is closely linked to poverty.

Attacking the causes of poverty could greatly improve the security of older people. Within the family status , when the family undergoes an abrupt change.

We are going to talk about gerontology and aging in Zambia.

Gerontology is the study of human aging processes from middle age into later life which includes :

Studying physical , mental and social changes in people as they age

Investigating changes in society resulting from an aging population

Applying this knowledge into national policies and programs

Gerontology is related to the field of geriatrics which focuses on the study of health , disease and healthcare in aging individuals


What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. Generally divide into the following categories: Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, domestic abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse and neglect. Elder abuse is a big problem around the world and it is such a serious problem that the personal losses associated with abuse are devastating and include the loss of independence, homes, life savings, health, dignity and security.




-Government or Institutional, and

-Self neglect of self-abuse

-Domestic abuse

Domestic elder abuse generally refers to and of several forms of miss treatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder (for example spouse, sibling, child, and friend ) of a caregiver in the older person’s own home of an elderly person in the home of a caregiver.

Although the exact legal terminologies and definitions may vary from one place to another, most people recognize the following five types of domestic abuse:



-Emotional of psychological: the willful infliction of mental of emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, and intimidation, of other verbal or non-verbal abusive conduct;


-Financial or material exploitation: The unauthorized use of funds, property, or any other resources of an older person

the willful of non-willful failure by the care-giber to fulfill his /her care-taking obligation of duty.the non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person;the non-accidental use of physical force that results in body injury, pain or impairment;

Institutional abuse

Institutional abuse, on the other hand, generally refers to any of the above that occur in residential facilities for older persons (for example old people’s homes, nursing homes and care facilities)

Perpetrators of institutional abuse usually are persons who have a legal or contractual obligation to provide elder victims with care and protection

(for example caretakers, staff ,professionals and the government)

Elder abuse is a crime

Most physical, sexual and financial /material abuses are considered criminal.

In addition, depending on the type of the perpetrator’s conduct and consequences for the victims, certain emotional abuse and neglect cases are subject to criminal prosecution.

Based on my findings for confirmed domestic elder abuse cases I have investigated on in the past years as way back as 1996 , as a concerned citizen of Zambia (there are cases I have known which include self neglect) I would estimate that the incidence of specific types of older persons maltreatment for the past years would be:


Sexual abuse 1.6 per cent

Emotional abuse 11.0 per cent

Neglect abuse 37.2 per cent

Financial exploitation 20 per cent

Other types (Political abuse) 2.8 per cent

Unknown 1.1 per cent

Who are the abusers of Older Persons?

Available data from past statistics provide a clear picture about the identity of those who are the perpetrators of elder abuse as:

The government is very much responsible for most of the abuse of those who are retired we all know that, but we have done nothing at all ! This has been going on for over forty years.

Adult children

By the way, children of the elderly in the developed world are responsible for over 70 per cent of financial elder abuse and 30 per cent in the less developed world. Grandchildren, other relatives, friends, neighbors each respectively account for roughly 15 per cent and the other 25 per cent by processionals /providers.

of the elderly are responsible for over 30.0 per cent, grand children 1.9 per cent, spouses 14.8 per cent, siblings 1.7 per cent other relatives 17.8 per cent, service providers 12.9 per cent , friends or neighbors 10 per cent, others out there 9.4 per cent and persons unknown 1.5 per cent.

More than two – thirds of elder abuse culprits are victim’s own blood relatives. Given the above facts, it is reasonable to assume that elder abuse can best be understood within the context of “family violence ‘or “intra – familial conflicts”.


What are the causes of elder abuse?

Elder abuse like any other type of domestic violence is extremely complex and many, many factors contribute to its occurrence.

It is generally assumed that a combination of psychological, illnesses like HIV/AIDS in Zambia and the Sub Sahara Africa, social and economic factors that affect inter-personal and intra-familial relations (along with mental and physical conditions of the elderly themselves and their tormentors) is responsible for any single incident of domestic abuse. Here is what I think are the theories and hypotheses about the reasons why certain types of elder maltreatment occur. At the same, other professionals working with victims, their families and perpetrators have formed explanations of the causes of elder abuse principally based on clinical and social observations.

The existing causal theories of abuse can be divided into four main areas or categories:

I would say that this theory holds that elder abuse results from the stress and frustration of the care-giver in combination with other factors that are essential or ‘internal’ to the care –giver. For example inadequate coping skills, illness like AIDS, emotional problems, loss of employment or family member, lack of food along with the above problems that are “external “ to the care – giver, like mental or physical impairment of the older person, financial burden or lack of family and community support. This theory can be widely supported in most professional communities as on that can explain the cause of a large number of abuse and neglect cases in our communities.

Impairment of dependent elders. About 95 per cent of the dependent elderly in most of the less developed countries around the world are cared for at home. Among them are many severely disabled older persons who suffer from mental, physical disabilities and from the loss of there breadwinners from the HIV/AIDS more in Zambia and most of Sub Sahara Africa,

Generally, what I found out over the years is that retirees and elders in poor health are more likely to be abused than those in good /tip top health.

This theory to me postulates that abuse often occurs in a situation where the stress level of the caregiver is heightened because of the elder person’s increased dependency on care – giver due to the worsening of the older person’s impairment.

Stress of the care – giver, when the care – giver is ill equipped to perform care – taking tasks because of his/her personal problems or lack of knowledge of the work to be done, or when support from the other members of the family is lacking.

Cycle of poverty brings cycle of violence. This theory to me holds that some families are more prone to poverty/ violence than others are, as poverty/violence is a learned behavior and is transmitted from one generation to another. In child abuse facts you will find out that many perpetrators of child abuse were, in fact, abused when they were children – frequently by their parents or family members or caretaker. I would postulate that an abusive behavior (such as the use of violence to resolve conflict) becomes a normative behavioral pattern in some families.

Personal problems of abusers. I have found out that in the past and now that abusers of the elderly (typically adult children) tend to have more personal problems than do non – abusers.

How can we stop elder abuse?


We can all help to protect the vulnerable elderly people from all types of abuse, neglect and exploitation in many ways. We can recognize warning signs. The existence of any one or more of the following indicators does not necessarily mean that abuse has not occurred. Instead, we must treat them as signs that diligent attention or investigation is needed.

Behavioral warning signs:


Confused or extremely forgetful


Helpless or angry

Hesitant to talk freely



Isolation warning signs

Elder is not given the opportunity to speak freely or have contact with others without the care giver being present and so forth and so on .

Elder is isolated or lonely with no visitors for relatives. Family members or caregiver isolates the elder person, restricting the person’s contact with others.


JOIN & invite all other Zambian friends as well as your family members to the Zambian Think -Tank for a Revolutionary CHANGE in Zambia to protect our older persons. Become a Think -Tank , Spread the awareness for change, we need change, we’ve had enough of defeatists, apologists and pessimists. Time for Zambian Think -Tanks to rise is now. See history in the making, Join us .

Thank you all…

One million Zambian Think -Tanks can make a change in Zambia.. get up , take charge and play your role…the role of a concerned , informed and engaged citizen.

REMEMBER : You’ve got nothing to lose but chains in old age if you do not speak out now !

Physical abuse 26.3 per cent

In Zambia as a country, for example, there are numerous cases of widows being forcibly removed form the family home. Elder abuse in that form is far less likely to be reported than child abuse, which has gained greater public awareness, after a survey that I did a few years ago, I found “while one out of three child abused cases is reported, only one out of 300 cases of elder abuse is reported.”

With enhanced public awareness of problems along with improved reporting systems, it is anticipated that reports of elder abuse (particularly domestic elder abuse) will continue to increase.

For now, however as experts we should agree that elder abuse remains one of the most under-recognized, and therefore one of the most under –reported, social problems in Zambia.

Elder abuse is a growing problem in Zambia . Elder abuse is often directed especially at women, as a result of witchcraft allegations. These accusations are common in a number of our communities in both urban and rural.

Accusations have often been connected with unexplained local events, such as sudden death of crop failure or have been a response to a rapid social and economic change.

A more recent feature, however is that the huge number of deaths from HIV/AIDS has begun to be blamed on witchcraft. Where community violence is common, older people often become victims because of their greater vulnerability. Abuse can take a number of forms-physical abuse may include not only injury but also malnutrition of the withholding of physical care. Psychological abuse may occur in the form of threats, verbal harassment or isolation. Broadly defined, however, there are three basic categories of elder abuse:


Post a Comment

Comments should be on the topic and should not be abusive. The editorial team reserves the right to review and moderate the comments posted on the site.

Popular Contributors

Lachmi Deb Roy subnirmala HannahSP Krishna Bora Dr.Trupti Antony76 Lakshmi Gopal ThelmaSimon aruna75