Nkandla - The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has commissioned a study to focus on the profile of older persons to ensure if adequate services are being provided to them.
The study will focus on the socio-economic status, household structure and health status, especially the impact of HIV and AIDS on the elderly.
Speaking at the sod-turning ceremony to mark the construction of a R32 million facility for KwaBadala Home for Senior Citizens on Monday, provincial Premier Sbusiso Ndebele said the study would also include an audit of all 53 facilities for senior citizens in the province.
"We are investigating whether adequate services are being provided to the elderly, such as safety at pension points, services from loan sharks, burial schemes and so on," Premier Ndebele said.
In November 2007, the KwaBadala Home was caught alight claiming the lives of 12 senior citizens and resulting in several injuries.
The new home, which is expected to be completed by November this year, will have capacity to cater for 100 senior citizens including 40 women and 60 men. The frail-care section will also accommodate a further 20 residents.
The facility will be a one-stop service centre for older persons including luncheon clubs, community home-based care programmes, rehabilitation services as well as sport and other active programmes for senior citizens.
Mr Ndebele noted that the programme "Taking Government Services to the People" has also targeted senior citizens as a vulnerable sector.
He said through the programme, which has been implemented at all provincial district municipality areas, government provides services in rural areas and provides free social services at places where senior citizens normally gather.
"When we talk about how to translate our caring and compassion for senior citizens into tangible programmes, we have to think of their realistic needs. One that comes to mind immediately is giving dignity to our elderly, the provision of water, sanitation and electricity forms part of this dignity," he said.
The premier also noted that income security was another key issue for senior citizens.
Poverty is a gross violation of basic human rights and failure to provide senior citizens with adequate means to live in dignity impedes their full participation in society, Premier Ndebele said.
He further emphasised a great need for the effective participation of older persons in the economic, political and social spheres of society, along with the provision of opportunities for the individual development of people throughout their life span.
"One such example is lifelong learning and to upgrade the skills of older persons through access to education and training that allows them, not only to stay productive, but also improves their chances of inter-generational transmission of experience and knowledge, from older to younger generations, for the benefit of society at large," Mr Ndebele said.
He said since 2004, government has made significant progress in realising the rights of senior citizens in the province.