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STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT, COUNCILLOR SUZETTE LITTLE

Today the City of Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged, Age-in-Action, the South African Social Security Agency, and the South African Police Service joined forces to celebrate our senior citizens and the contribution they make to our society.

This event, linked to International Day of Older Persons earlier this month, is our way of acknowledging our elders, but also breaking the stigma and addressing the challenges that many of our senior citizens are all too familiar with.

International Day of Older Persons is a United Nations-designated day. The theme this year is taking a stand against ageism and it challenges us to identify and question internalised ageist attitudes and the impact thereof.

This is not a new challenge. Stories abound of elder abuse and neglect as well as social exclusion and isolation when older people are considered a burden. This in spite of the fact that older persons make up a sizeable portion of the world’s population – a portion set to double by 2025, particularly in developing countries like ours.

The City, with the help of its partners, has started changing the narrative in recent years and today’s event is but the latest instalment in that changing narrative. We are entertaining our older persons because fun doesn’t have an age limit. Laughter and enjoyment is the best medicine and helps to tackle ageist attitudes head-on.

We have also made education and awareness part and parcel of our events for older people, because an informed person is able to make choices that enhance their well-being and improve their sense of self-worth. This includes educating our older persons about their rights, social grants, health and well-being, and personal safety.

Our Home-Based Companionship Care Programme, launched a few years ago, has proven to be one of the most successful initiatives we have ever launched and it is a challenge to keep up with requests from older persons for this service. It does, however, beg the question: why are so many older persons being left to their own devices? Where are their families?

We need to change the way we view and treat our elders. Ageing is inevitable and it’s a path that we all have to walk. So I challenge everyone to consider how they treat older persons in their lives and how they’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot. The change needs to start from within, but until then, the City and its partners will continue doing everything possible to enrich the lives of older persons.

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