The changing role of older persons in the South African households
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The extended family used to be relied upon to provide subsistence and care for older persons in sub-Saharan Africa. However, recently South Africa has seen a reversal of roles, where older persons are now providing subsistence and care to younger generations. This role reversal started during the apartheid era as older persons took care of grandchildren and it is being accelerated by HIV/AIDS deaths among young adults. In most rural households, the non-contributory pension that is means-tested is an important factor in making older persons breadwinners. Using data from the 2004 Mpumalanga Older Persons Survey, we examined the changing role of older persons, which has been influenced mainly by changes in household structure and old age pensions. Preliminary findings show that in 63 percent of matrifocal multi-generational households, 76 percent of older persons are the sole providers of household necessities, care for the sick and grandchildren in increasingly skip-generation households.