The South African Older Persons Forum (SAOPF) joins the world in marking the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) commemorated on 1st October every year. On 14 December 1990, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the day to recognize the contributions of older persons and to focus on issues that affect their lives. In South Africa, the day has been diligently observed over the years by politicians and activists alike using this day to draw public attention to the situation of older persons within the South African context.

South Africa’s ageing population has been increasing over time; according to STATS-SA’s mid-year population estimate for 2022, older persons represent 9,2 percent of South Africa’s population (5,6 Million). In comparison with previous estimates, there is a significant rise in people living over sixty in the country.

Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa there has been a concerted effort by state, and non-state actors alike to ensure the empowerment and protection of our older persons. The promulgation of the Older Persons Act (Act 13 of 2006) has been key in the promotion and maintenance of their status, rights, well-being, safety, and security. Recently, the government’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development embarked on a program of public hearings in provinces on the Older Persons Amendment Bill (B 11-2022). The bill seeks to amend Act 13 of 2006 to “clean up” the Act to provide better services to older persons and tighter protection and safety.

At these hearings, older persons were invited to comment on the Bill by raising issues impacting their daily lives. Scores of older persons reported being victims of a host of crimes, including rape, assault, attempted murder and burglary. Older persons were also very vocal on issues about the lack of government service delivery to older persons.

From comments made by many older persons at these hearings measures to safeguard older persons need to be urgently strengthened. The provision of services to older persons is significantly hindered by a lack of coordination among state departments.  

Whilst it is a fact that ensuring a better and safer South Africa for older persons will require effective legislation that is implemented uniformly across provinces, it is equally important for each of us to become change agents. The 2023 International Day of Older Persons is a call to action for each of us to do our part to ensure that South Africa becomes a place where we all can grow old knowing that we’ll be cared for and safe.