John Rwego, 68 years is a retired teacher who says aging is not a positive experience for some people. He once heard a senior citizen say, “Aging is not for cowards!” But he does not believe so.
He says, “Aging is a rewarding experience for those who have learned to age with dignity.”
“It’s key for individuals to plan for their retirement. I believe that people should daily focus on their future life plan and lifestyle. When people grow old they think they have no value, are isolated and lonely” he says.
Through experience, Rwego says that Rwanda’s traditions dictate that older individuals rely on their families for support. However, he acknowledges that, “as societies move away from tradition-bound multi-generational families to modern nuclear families, the elderly are often left behind.”
It’s puzzling since even under traditional structures, the safety net is not faultless as there are always people without children to support them or whose children are too poor to support them.
Dignity of identity
Across the continent, social security administrations are responding to challenges, leveraging their mandates and expertise to provide developmental responses.
Rwanda has in place, efforts to reduce poverty such as; Ubudehe agricultural programs, ‘One Cow-One Family’, Community-based health insurance, known as ‘Mutuelle de Santé’, and social security pensions for the working population.
Most notably is the Public Works Programme, which is an extension of the country’s Vision 2020 program that is intended to transform the lives of senior citizens.
The programme offers those living in poverty guaranteed employment to help their elderly. Those that are still living in poverty after one year of participation in the program usually graduate from extreme poverty to a relatively comfortable life.
The Ministry of Local Government proposed that the old age grant be projected to become part of the Social Security Fund that will offer a monthly pension to Rwanda’s elderly who are 70 years and older.
This program is an effort to reduce poverty because studies reflect that 80 percent of households with an elderly person live in poverty. This is an effort to reach out to the vulnerable people including the senior citizens.
Additionally, a cash transfer pilot programme known as ‘Assistance Grants for Empowerment’ is in the pipeline.
It is said that monthly benefits will be Rwf5, 200.Reports assert that many aged citizens are poor and cannot access basic services because they live with unemployed providers. This program will make available basic necessities like food, medicine, books and uniforms for their children.