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Covid-19 and the Elderly: The Story of 72-Year-Old Granny on Rusinga Island

The sudden emergence of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has left Kenya’s elderly population vulnerable, lonely and disconnected.

At seventy-two years old, Dorice Oguta, 72 is among thousands of elderly people whose life has been adversely impacted by the pandemic. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and subsequently diabetes. Because of these underlying conditions, her vulnerability to Covid-19 is heightened.

She is a resident of Kakerego Village on Rusinga Island, Homa Bay County, where she takes care of eight grandchildren. Unfortunately, her sons are out of employment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, limiting their ability to send back financial support. Dorice is now selling firewood with the help of her eldest grandchild in order to eke out a living.

Many older people in the community do not have the resources to acquire personal protective supplies such as soap, sanitizers, face masks and other equipment. The advice to limit contact to aged kin, together with the general COVID-related restrictions, has led to substantial reductions in the support older persons receive from extended family and traditional community support systems.

UNFPA in support of efforts rolled out by the government of Kenya, has been working with local community-based organizations and other actors in strengthening their capacities to raise COVID-19 related awareness among the elderly, and provide practical support to older persons and their caregivers. These efforts have also been geared towards prevention and detection of abuse of older persons.