Many Batswana see the issue of retirement homes as a foreign concept which in their view does not apply to ‘our’ society
Over the years, it has become visible that more and more elderly people are struggling due to many factors, be it that their children have moved to towns in search of greener pastures, or just that they have outlived their children.
The big question is what happens to those elderly people who can no longer fend for themselves? Western countries have many retirement homes, which provide the elderly with facilities for company and companionship, meals, gatherings, recreation activities and some form of health care.
A Motswana woman, Pinkie Gaelese Monageng-Matsheka has taken it upon herself to establish a centre, Monax Shelter For Hope Trust dedicated to taking care of the elderly.
The centre, which is located in the heart of Metsimotlhabe boasts of 10 rooms, which are used as resting areas for elderly people who have registered with the trust.
Monageng-Matsheka related how it all started to The Monitor.
She said it was in 2006 when she realised that many elderly people were struggling and some were in situations where they would go for days without food.
Monageng-Matsheka said she started off going for a few elderly people and delivering food to their homes. She said while the task was hard on her because she was using her own resources, she soldiered on and ultimately asked for space at the Metsimotlhabe Kgotla.
“Metsimotlhabe Kgotla gave us permission in 2012 and I started providing meals to the elderly from the Kgotla premises,” she explained. She said she operated from the Metsimotlhabe Kgotla until 2018, the same year she managed to register the trust.
In 2019, she decided to move the facility to her home, where Monax Shelter For Hope Trust is currently serving about 200 elderly people. The Monitor team toured the facility, which comprises resting rooms, ablutions, sitting area, kitchen and other rooms, which Monageng-Matsheka hope to convert into offices and consulting rooms.
“You see the place still needs a lot of renovations, but we do not have funds, since we are not a profit-making company. We provide services to the elderly for free. We provide them with three meals a day,” she said.
“Our elderly people do not have money and they are struggling, so if we choose to charge, it means they will not be able to afford the services.” She told The Monitor
She said they currently have drop-and-pick, where children drop their elderly parents and pick them up after work, as well as those who come for meals.
She explained that they used to house seven elderly people over night, but have since put it on hold, until all the facilities are put in place.
“We are still struggling. As you can see, we use firewood to cook. Our stove is not working. We are also in need of volunteers from the healthcare profession, for example doctors, nurses, social workers and counsellors to take care of the elderly’s emotional wellbeing” she explained. She said the centre also needs funds for renovations and a car to transport the elderly.
The centre currently has volunteers who do the cooking and cleaning of the facility. Amongst the volunteers are five Botho University students namely: Tshepiso Koobake, Jessica Gombani, Kago Mokowe, Lenna Mogome, and Changu Maribeng.
The Monitor interviewed a number of the elderly, who were at the centre. They all said the centre has improved their quality of life.
Monageng-Matsheka explained that while at the centre the elders do many activities which include sewing and woodwork.
“Our goals are to facilitate basic healthcare, promote self-esteem, introduce hand skills for brain and muscle coordination, and to have them integrate socially with each other through story telling,” she said.
Monageng-Matsheka said due to the outbreak of COVID-19/coronavirus, they have since cut the number of the elderly to ensure that they do not pose any danger to any of them. The facility has encouraged some of the elderly to just pick their meals and go.
“We have also told them to come at different times so that we don’t come across situations where there are too many of them at the same time,” she added.
Monax Shelter had to temporarily shift gear, due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. In order to stay inline with regulations set by government to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Monax Shelter delivers cooked food to the elderly on a daily basis, which has proven to be a difficult undertaking due to lack of resources.