The safety of the elderly in the country is under the spotlight. Fear has gripped the elderly at Ekuphumleni Old Age Home at Zwide township in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape.
A staff member was allegedly raped on the premises during a burglary. The old age home accommodates 60 residents. This is the first incident of this nature at the home in nearly 40 years since its establishment.
“I’m very unhappy about the incident and my mom was a bit shaken up. It happened in another block, in the frail block and I just don’t understand why criminals will always focus on old people that are unable to help themselves and unable to defend themselves, weak. The people that are supposed to be having years of retirement that have experience. Can’t we leave them in peace?” urges the son of an elderly resident, Jon Ellen.
The victim is undergoing trauma counselling. Her colleagues are concerned this may happen again.
“One thing that upsets us the most as we work with the elderly is this new development of a colleague who got rape. It means we are not safe, no one is safe. But they have tried to fit burglar gates in one ward – though incomplete,” says one staff member.
Safety of the elderly in SA under the spotlight:
Restoring human dignity to those directly affected is now a priority. Director of Ekuphumleni Old Age Home, Monga Peter, explains: “I think it’s only correct that we start with the people that were directly affected. The trauma that the lady experienced and the elderly in that block – subsequently what we did was to bring in services of social workers to deal with trauma counselling to an extent that the lady now is being attended to. She is spending time at the shelter in Uitenhage.”
The work to upgrade security features is currently under way.
“Mainly what we have done just to improve and augment in the form of generally fitting in the security gates in the main doors, which work was already under way and of course what we have also activated is the collaboration between the police and the community that helped us so that they accelerate the patrolling in the area and the institution. There are sophisticated features that I’ve rolled out that I can’t provide details for obvious reasons,” says Peter.
The Social Development Department has condemned the incident.
“We want to indicate our disgust to say that this is a despicable act, immoral and betraying the values that govern our society, especially values that are around the protection of our vulnerable people in our society. Those people are the elderly people, the children and the frail. And in those instances, we want to call upon the community around the centre to take it upon themselves to ensure that the elderly and frail people in that centre are always protected,” says the spokesperson for the department in the province, Mzukisi Solani.
The department says it’s also working with the centre to bolster security. Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.