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Spotlight on the elderly

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Ntsebeng Motsoeli


MASERU — They are tortured and gruesomely murdered because they have allegedly bewitched someone.

This is the danger of being an elderly woman in rural villages in Lesotho.

Health minister Dr Pinkie Manamolela says this is one of the many challenges that elderly people face.

“Our elders have many challenges that affect their mental health. They are affected by hunger, sicknesses, losing their relatives, loneliness and lack of support and they are abused,” Manamolela said during the commemoration of World Health Day at Ha ‘Mantšebo on Thursday.

“In other villages they (elderly people) are burnt and murdered because they are accused of practicing witchcraft,” she said.

She said these happen despite the fact that they are the ones who have to look after their orphaned grandchildren.

Manamolela said it does not help that government tried to improve their monthly grants to answer some of the challenges.

The money, she said, is taken from them by their relatives.

She said that the rights of the elderly people are trampled upon not caring what impact that would have on their mental health.

Among some of the mental illnesses that affect elderly people in Lesotho was dementia that causes forgetfulness and depression as a result of abuse.

“Dementia can cause an old person to forget their home and enter another person’s house thinking that it belongs to them. That is when they are accused of being witches.

“Depression may cause an elderly person to see their lives as valueless and want to commit suicide. This affects more women than men,” she said.

She said that elderly people should be taken to health institutions once suspicious signs are spotted in their physical and mental behaviours.

Manamolela appealed to the public to help elderly people establish support groups that will help them overcome boredom and depression.

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