In a bid to promote healthy living, third year social work students from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in partnership with the TB/HIV Care Association have encouraged senior citizens to exercise.
During a wellness campaign held at the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) hall, in Harare, the students said campaigns to promote health issues were often only directed at young people, denying seniors a chance to know and keep fit.
The campaign was supported by the Department of Environmental Health, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the Department of Sports and Recreation.
More than 50 seniors attended the event.
Student Marcia Dumezweni said as social work students, they needed to promote healthy living, adding that: “Seniors are a special breed that we all need to look at all the time”.
“In our assessment of the area we realised they are not cared for in terms of campaigns,” she added. “All people do is put them in clubs where they do beading, (get involved in) soup kitchens but nothing (is done) to promote their health.
“That is one of the reasons we thought let us focus on their health. We want them to see that we care.”
Ms Dumezweni urged elderly people to watch their weight in order to prevent developing ailments like hypertension and diabetes. She said it was good for them to have fun while also keeping healthy.
“They need exercises, even if they are not running around the streets but sitting down. That is why we collaborated with many departments; we want them to learn new things. They should know they keep fit while in bed or sitting in the chair,” she said.
Her colleague, Lorna Tshukuse, added that seniors were at times responsible for looking after their children and grandchildren.
“It is important that the focus on health issues should be directed at them. We die of many diseases and we leave them with our children. The truth is the death of young people is not nice but again the fact is, they are the ones leaving parents behind. Some of us die of HIV/Aids and we do not divulge that before we die. We sometimes leave behind children that were born with HIV/Aids. The seniors need to know how to handle not only such children but health issues too,” she said.
She thanked the departments for giving of their time to elderly people and said she hoped the elders had taken in the advice given to them.
“Sassa explained to them how they can access their social grants and pension while the others (focused) more on health issues,” she said.
TB/HIV Care Association’s Nondumiso Mtshiselwa urged seniors to embrace the campaign to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle and told the seniors to choose to be active and if they choose to indulge in sex, to use condoms.
“There is misinformation that HIV/Aids is for young people. That is a wrong myth. HIV/Aids knows no boundaries. You are looking after your children’s children and some are infected. You might get the disease in one way or another so please use condoms,” she said. Pensioner Nozukile Ngamya said she was thankful to have been able to learn about cleanliness and diseases, adding that it was important that seniors were tested for different diseases. “It is important for one to look after one’s health status. I am grateful to these children,” she said.
Fitness trainer Thembi Gecelo took the seniors through their paces, also encouraging them to exercise while sitting down
Ms Gecelo said keeping fit will help to fight chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.