Durban old age body levels 'elder abuse' accusation against residents flouting lockdown rules

The Association for the Aged has accused some its residents of flouting lockdown measures and putting the frail at risk.
The Association for the Aged has accused some its residents of flouting lockdown measures and putting the frail at risk.
Image: 123RF/sondem

The Association for the Aged (Tafta) in Durban has accused some of its residents of putting others at risk of contracting Covid-19 by not wearing masks or restricting their outings to only essential trips.

The NPO, which looks after about 2,000 elderly residents in 13 care homes throughout greater Durban, said on Tuesday that elder on elder abuse had “reared its head in the context of rights infringement, as elders determined to exercise their constitutional freedoms bring risk to others”, in these facilities.

“The virus has unleashed a new set of rights issues the organisation has never had to deal with before,” said Tafta CEO Femada Shamam.

Despite a directive from the government for SA's elderly to remain at home because they are regarded as vulnerable and prone to the virus, some of Tafta's healthier residents, it is understood, want more freedom of movement.

Last month it was reported that elderly residents who live in a Tafta-owned building on Durban's beachfront accused the organisation of violating their human rights by not allowing them to exercise between the designated 6am to 9am time slot during level 4 of the lockdown and restricting their shopping trips to once a week.

Tafta said at the time that measures had been put in place to protect the residents.

“When we were informed of the national state of disaster being declared, we took every necessary precautionary measure to ensure our elders, recognised as the most vulnerable age group, were protected from exposure to the pandemic,” said Shamam.

“While some of those lockdown rules did translate to a loss of and infringement of some constitutional freedoms, the context of a life threat was understood by all.”

She said in recent days with the constitutionality of the lockdown being brought into question, “we’ve started to face a new reality: that in fact perpetrators of abuse could be the elderly themselves, as those living beside frailer, less fit elders choose to doggedly pursue their personal freedoms whilst potentially exposing others in our buildings to risk.”

Shamam said there have been instances of Tafta residents leaving their homes, “only to return to facilities hours later without taking the necessary precautions to minimise risk of coronavirus exposure”, such as the wearing of masks or restricting outings only to essential grocery and medical needs.

She said in cases where residents insisted on exercising their “constitutional freedoms in a building where at times 599 other older people live, this freedom may potentially result in the death of others with severely compromised immune systems". 

This new challenge, she added, was cause for several disruptions at Tafta homes as a balance was being sought between those wanting to remain in restricted lockdown and those wanting to exercise personal freedoms. 

“We are trying to meet the needs of all our residents, but it is a trying time indeed.”

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