The Capuchin friars run a special home for the elderly in Huambo. The home is a village of 10 small homes each with three or four older residents. The villagers have their own piece of land to cultivate and keep pigs, chickens, and rabbits. The Home-Village is a safe place where the elderly continue to live as they did in their own villages, according to a December 15, 2018, report by Fides News Agency.
The challenge of caring for the elderly is a new issue in Africa and only just beginning. According to a recent World Health Organisation report, presented at the 68th session of the Regional Committee in Dakar, Senegal, the health of the people in the 47 countries in Africa is gradually improving. The first consequence has been the prolongation of life expectancy in Africa, in only three years (2014-2017) it rose from 50.9 years to 53.8. This is still short compared with the situation in other parts of the world: life expectancy in UE countries 28 is 77.9; in the United States of America 78.4, but Africa has put its right foot forward. The elderly population is starting to grow and this poses difficulties hitherto unknown on this continent.
“Until a few years ago,” said Friar Guido Felicetti, a member of Triveneto Capuchin Mission Centre in northern Italy that sustains the African confreres, “the elderly were considered a resource rather than a problem. It was the family that cared for them. Today the situation has changed considerably. Many families move from villages to the cities. The older people prefer to remain in the villages but they are alone.”
Unlike in Europe and North America, these people are not eighty years old. “Africans suffer from the lack of assistance, a hard life in the fields, an unbalanced diet,” said Fr. Guido. “So in Angola, as in other parts of Africa, a person of 60 is already considered old. Old people who used to be respected for their wisdom, today are seen as a burden. This negative reflex comes from the West.”
A group of old people in Huambo asked the Capuchins for help. So friar Moises Lukondo opened a home for old people in the outskirts of the city. The Home is set on a large area of land where the inmates can work in the fields and keep livestock.
“Here, the old people feel almost at home,” Fr. Guido said. “They are visited regularly by the local health services and every year Italian and European volunteers bring them medicines. Thanks to this care, here old people live their last years in serenity.”