Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Influence of Poverty and Well Being of the Elderly People in Nyanza Province, Kenya

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Influence of Poverty and Well Being of the Elderly People in Nyanza Province, Kenya

Article excerpt

Abstract

Kenya's population aged 60+ is estimated to be 1.8 million, that is, 9% of the total population and is projected to increase to about 2.2 million by 2012. This raises questions as to the socio-economic situation and well-being of the older population given the prevailing economic conditions and decreasing family sizes occasioned by family planning and the migration of the youth to urban areas in search of employment. A descriptive study using quantitative survey questionnaires, qualitative interviews and observation checklist was conducted among a sample of 120 older men and women aged women aged 60+ in three districts in Nyanza province. The majority (57%) of older people earned incomes of less than Ksh. 2000 (US $25), older people's major source of income was from small-scale growing and selling of vegetables, eggs, milk, and fruits. The majority of the sample (64%) had only completed primary education, 68% had low food nutrient intake, 66.7% hypertension, 13% diabetes, 73% joint aches, 22% suffered from HIV/AIDS, 29% were affected by HIV/AIDS, 77.5 of women had menopause related discomforts, and 19.2% of men had prostate problems. Although 82% had geographical access to health facilities, services were experienced as unaffordable or inadequate. In conclusion, older people's poverty produces vulnerability to malnutrition and untreated degenerative diseases. Dependence on help from children and well-wishers is older people's main, but inadequate, resource for trying to cope with this vulnerability. Despite formal government commitment, concrete policies to ensure the economic well-being of older people are absent. National level research to establish the nature and determinants of older people's socio-economic situation is needed to promote and inform such policy development.

Keywords: Elderly, Poverty, Wellbeing, Nutrition

1. Background to the study

Globally, both the number and proportion of older people over 60 years are virtually growing in all nations. An estimated 605 million older persons in the world, and nearly 400 million of who are living in low-income countries were reported in 2002. It is also reported that by 2025, the number of older persons worldwide is expected to reach more than 1.2 billion, with about 840 million of these in low-income countries (Siegel, 1976)

In conformity with United Nations and African Union definitions, Kenya has adopted the

Definition of older people as those aged 60 years and above although the retirement

age of employment is 55 years. In terms of demographic profiles the number of older persons has not risen dramatically since 1989. The statistics show that about 1.5 million people in Kenya are aged 60 years and above, thus constituting 4.8 percent of the total population. The distribution of older persons varies across the eight provinces. The highest concentration of older persons is in Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces.

It has been noted that many of the diseases suffered by older persons are as a result of dietary factors, some of which have been having impact since childhood. These dietary changes seem to affect risk-factor levels through life and have even greater impact in older people. Among the aged, vitamin or mineral deficiencies seldom do not develop abruptly, instead they evolve slowly over a period of time as a result of limited intake, impaired absorption, or excessive excretion (Boykin, 1980; Beeuwkes, 1960). Marginal deficiency is characterized by gradual nutrient depletion and personal lack of well being associated with impairment of certain biochemical functions. The level of income and nutritional adequacy are inter-related, for example, Nizel (1976) argues that the nutritional intake of the elderly is influenced by the socio-economic factors that determine the congregated meal program or delivery of the meals to the home, whereas the variability of the diet is influenced by the distribution of the nutrients in particular foods (Ondigi, 2003). …

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