Black South African families with older members: opportunities and constraints


In developing countries, the majority of elders live with children. In South Africa, the first baseline study of persons aged 60 years and older confirmed that more than nine in ten black elders live with children and/or grandchildren. The study focussed on the individual elder and did not provide information on the living conditions of multigeneration families. To fill a gap in knowledge, this paper inquires into the situation of households which shelter persons aged 60 years and over. Secondary analysis of data collected nationwide in late 1993 among close on 9 000 South African households for the Project on Statistics for Living Standards and Development (Saldru 1994) aimed to provide information for policy and planning for the care of the elderly in the family context. Statistics on geographic location, household composition, housing and infrastructure, household economy, education and health, and perceived quality of life were compiled for elderly households and young households with no older members. A comparison of the statistical profiles of older and younger households indicated that poverty was the major constraint on the wellbeing of elderly households. Elderly persons in the family were most likely to perceive their living conditions to be depressed. Elderly households were larger, poorer and more likely to be located in the rural areas than young households. The geographical division of older and younger households, which coincided with an income gap, indicates a need for further inquiries into the dynamics of household formation and the economic links between older and younger households. The paper addresses intergenerational welfare policy issues: the authors recommend that elderly households be considered as an important subcategory of the poor to ensure the wellbeing of older members of the family.


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