Infrastructure, equity and the elderly

  • Fiona Ross Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town and Community Health Research Group
  • L.B. Lerer Community Health Research Group, Medical Research Council
  • Rozett Phillips Community Health Research Group, Medical Research Council

Abstract

Equitable infrastructure provision in the less-developed world requires recognition of the needs of marginalized groups, such as the elderly. This paper explores issues relating to the use of household energy sources by the elderly in a rural village in the Western Cape province of South Africa, and focusses on perceptions of and barriers to electricity uptake. Whilst poor elderly persons are frequently involved in child care, and together with the young suffer most the negative health effects of indoor air pollution, their access to electricity is limited by constraints including affordability, status and custom. Electrification is considered by the South African Government of National Unity to be a vital development intervention and employment creator; yet the elderly tend to be excluded from the concrete benefits of development, and their construction and commentaries on energy issues often contain a critique of infrastructural development and the accompanying processes of social change. Rather than dismiss the elderlys attitudes towards electrification, it is important to look deeper into what their commentary tells us about missed opportunities, to ensure that development brings with it equitable access and outcomes to categories of people in need.

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Published
1996-04-01