Christmas is a time when family and friends come together. But for hundreds of senior citizens who call Old Age facilities home, the festive season brings with it little cheer.
SABC News visited the Andries Meyer Home in Eldorado Park, South of Johannesburg, to look at the reality many are confronted with.
A forgotten people. Often abandoned. Out of sight and mind from their loved ones. Living out their twilight years in facilities like this.
Desire Hartley has been a resident here for three years. She does not have any children.
Hartley is one of about 80 residents here. “In other situations, many people – parents who have children and grandchildren who die lonely and they never come to visit. Several times they call to say they’re sick and can they please make a plan? They often come here 2 or 3 days when the mother passed on. There are many lonely people who are looking forward to seeing their children and grandchildren and families and they never do.”
For many like 72-year-old Eva Spies. It’s the loneliest times of the year. Her children seldom visit.
“My family doesn’t come and visit me. They are just around here. My eldest doesn’t come here; my baby son said he would come to fetch me and put me in a home. I am still waiting for him … I love them, they don’t visit, my grandchildren they just around here. My wish for them to come and see me they don’t have to bring anything; just to come and see.”
But others, like Mary Lunthango, are valued by loved ones. “All the relatives ask me who will take you for Xmas because they all want to take me for Xmas… It makes me feel very happy because now I see everybody loves me…”
Many here have a simple wish that “we can all be happy and healthy.”
“My wish for Christmas is – it mustn’t stop for me to be with my family always, they happy for me,” says Julia Williams.
Another resident Andries Meyer expresses that “Christmas is the birth of Christ, so you feel that Christ sacrificed his life for us. Why can’t our children do the same for us; just give us that few minutes of their time and love…..many here just want their children’s love.”
The greatest gift this Christmas…is love.