Social grants being swallowed-up by needy family members. File picture: David Ritchie/Independent Media
Cape Town - Despite getting a social grant, old-age pensioners suffer from malnutrition because their money goes towards feeding other members of their families.

According to research by the University of Stellenbosch Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, elderly South Africans are more likely to suffer from, among other things, trauma, poverty and malnutrition.

“Malnutrition, in particular, is a big problem among the elderly and is often underestimated, underdiagnosed and undertreated.

“The World Health Organisation’s 2015 world report on ageing and health points to evidence which suggests that globally a sizeable proportion of older people may be affected by malnutrition,” said Maritha Marais, a senior lecturer at the Division of Human Nutrition in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University.

Marais said there’s been a global increase in malnutrition among people above the age of 60. She said a systematic process needed to be in place to detect early signs of malnutrition and frailty.

“They do show unintentional weight loss and one has to prevent that because it starts a cycle of deterioration and they are more prone to complications. There should be a systematic approach to whenever the elderly are consulted to start with an oral inspection because that has an indication of developing malnutrition.”

Pensioners canvassed agreed with the research.

Nonikile Zazeka, 87, Thamsanqa Komani ,73, and Novumile Qhayi, 80, said their grants had to feed many.

“We’re a family of about 6 or 7 and they all depend on my grant, which I receive at the beginning of the month. By month-end there’s nothing good to eat. All my children and grandchildren are unemployed, so they depend on this money. I hardly eat vegetables and fruit so I can say my health is deteriorating,” Zazeka said.

She said she was not well as she had recently been vomiting blood and was waiting on test results. She was also diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes.

Komani and Qhayi said the same as their families also depended on their grant money and do not eat healthy food.

Sihle Ngobese, spokesperson for Social Development MEC Albert Fitz, said they were aware of elderly poverty in the province and had intervened.

“We are doing our best in helping the elderly, but levels of poverty in the Western Cape are a problem. We are intervening and prioritising as we are embarking on a programme of sustainable livelihood to address these issues of the poorest of the poor. We are working with communities to bring relief by identifying needy households, including children. We then make interventions in terms of nutritious food,” Ngobese said.

He said they were working with NGOs such as Food Bank and Rise Against Hunger was also helping.

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Cape Argus