NWU experts brings hope for the aged with we-Deliver project

Belinda Bantham -- Tue, 03/14/2017 - 11:59

NWU experts brings hope for the aged with we-Deliver project

Prof Vera Roos from the Optentia Research Focus Area at the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU), and her research collaborator Prof Jaco Hoffman (NWU Potchefstroom Campus) recently received funding to implement an intervention resulting from research about a municipal care system for older persons.

Prof Roos, Prof Hoffman and their team were contacted in 2014 by the South African Local Government Association to do this study.

The study focused on municipalities and not, as one would expect, assessing the perception of older people living within the municipalities, and therefore the respondents were actually the municipalities and their officials.

The researchers worked with local and district municipalities as well as metros, and their findings proved to be very interesting.

The good news is that the respondents generally knew the legislation and policies pertaining to older people, but found that they were challenged to translate these policies into practical programmes. 

The terminology used in official documents and policies are not consistent when referring to older persons as the elderly. Older persons are mentioned in most of the integrated development plans - variably as older persons, elderly, pensioners, the aged - but only a few of these plans specifically include older persons in their strategies and services.

The study also found that there is a lack of clarity and a general confusion with regard to who are responsible: are older persons and issues pertaining to them the responsibility of the Department of Health or the Department of Social Development? This confusion is clear in the lack of internal cross-sectional coordination that was identified by the study. Does it fall within the responsibility of the district or local municipalities? Prof Hoffman describes this point as one of the most significant findings of the study.

The lack of accessible information about the services rendered to older persons was another significant shortcoming that was identified by the study. The majority of municipalities could not identify the right person to assist with information on such services, and researchers were telephonically transferred within the organisation more than three times on average. Assistance also took long, which will have implications for older citizens who battle financially and do not have a lot of expendable income to spend on airtime.

The team is now standing at the beginning of the development of an ICT intervention, which seeks to address the shortcomings identified by the study. Prof Hoffman says it is still “early days”, but that the team is excited about the possibilities that it holds. The pilot intervention will be rolled out in three municipalities: Lokaleng in the North-West (Mafikeng area), Ikageng also in the North-West (near Potchefstroom), and Sedibeng in Gauteng (Vanderbijlpark area).

Living on the continent with a population of 44 million older people, set to increase to around 200 million within the next few decades, interventions such as this one is a good start towards some kind of care system to assist older persons, where there is currently a substantial care gap.


Prof Vera Roos.


Prof Jaco Hoffman.

Anelda van der Walt, co-worker