Updated 01 October 2013

Zuma urges elderly to live healthily

President Jacob Zuma has urged the elderly to take care of their health and to contribute to the development of the country.

President Jacob Zuma says the government is concerned about the health of the elderly.

Addressing a lunch at the start of week-long celebrations honouring the elderly, he said Statistics South Africa had established that 55% of South Africa's older persons over the age of 70 struggled with chronic diseases and 35% had some kind of disability.
As people get older, chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes tend to increase. 

Zuma reminded the elderly who received old age pensions that they also qualified for equipment if they developed a disability.
Government was improving the primary health care programme to include home and community based services to older people who were unable to live independently. 

Innovative management

He pointed out that health care workers visit the elderly at home and other people with chronic illnesses as part of government's caring primary health care programme.
"We're doing all this because the elderly must be healthy and continue to contribute to the development of the country and to society in general.

"We're pleased that our innovative management of HIV/Aids is reducing the burden on older people.
"In the past few years, older people had to fulfil the role of carers to family members suffering from HIV-related illnesses and to look after orphans resulting from this pandemic", Zuma said.

He pointed out that fortunately South Africa now had the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world and the numbers of people dying from Aids and the number of elderly that had to take care of orphaned and vulnerable children was decreasing.

Zuma said most of the achievements of his government were  in reducing extreme levels of income poverty, which could be ascribed to the comprehensive social protection programme.
It included social grants such as the old age pension scheme, as well as access to free education and primary health care for the poorest and the provision of free basic services to indigent members of the society. 

Zuma said there were 16 million people currently receiving social grants. Of this number, over 11 million was children, three million senior citizens who receive the old age grant and a further 531 received the war veterans’ grant.
He said the government had increased life expectancy by an average of five years due to successful government health and anti-poverty programmes.

Life expectancy at birth in 2011 was estimated at 54 for males and 59 for females. The increase in life expectancy was expected to continue and the number of people over the age of 60 will increase in the next coming years.
Government will continue to improve the health of older persons, but urged the elderly to play their own role as well to improve their health.
"We urge you to follow a healthy lifestyle by becoming physically active such as taking a daily walk and refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking and taking medicine every day at the right time,” Zuma said.

Key milestones during the week ahead will be the celebration of the International Day of Older Persons on 1 October, which was designated by the United Nations in 1990.
The second important day is Grandparents Day which is celebrated on 6 October.
This year's theme as designated by the United Nations is "The future we want, what older persons say''.


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