April 10, 2019 – Aging in Ghana

Cati Coe, an anthropologist based at Rutgers University, discussed the problem of aging in Ghana, a situation probably typical of African countries.

 

As elsewhere, people are living longer due to reductions in infant mortality. Even with a decline in the birth rate, 50% of the Ghanaian population is under age 30; 5%, over age 65.

 

The traditional way of caring for the elderly has been to keep the people in the family. Ghanaians still respond that in the West, particularly in America, families do not play the same role; public opinion suggests that the local society is superior to the West in this regard. However, with large-scale emigration from rural areas to the cities, and paradoxically with the growth of a middle-class, families are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the elderly only with relatives. Most commonly, women from the outside are hired to help in homes.

 

Dr. Coe has done most of her research in southeast Ghana, which is a rural area with a preponderance of elderly families because younger persons have emigrated. What care that is provided by the community is usually church centered, often in fellowship groups, but care in the home  or in group living is rare.

 

Dr. Coe also explored some sporadic attempts to set up what we in the West call continuing care homes, but there are very few people in such homes.

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