Elders Voice spreads love
BASED on the United Kingdom concept of shared living, local NPO the Elders Voice KZN offers shared residency to Sassa pensioners, which acts as an alternative of living home alone and struggling to make ends meet, while also encouraging companionship as opposed to loneliness when living alone.
Speaking on what the organisation offers, director Joanne Mocke Herbst said: “Our aim is to create sustainability projects for them in order for them to supplement their income and keep busy and feel like contributing members of society, restoring dignity in the process as many of the elderly in our homes come from really horrible conditions.”
The idea of creating a safe space that is the Elders Voice came about due to pure necessity. Elaborating on this, Herbst said: “We were faced with a poorly-run home and absolutely nowhere to place these old people if they did not have a vast amount of cash to their disposal as private homes are extremely expensive and out of the reach of most of the Sassa pensioners, there was also long waiting lists for the elderly in government-funded homes. People who fall outside of the catchment have nowhere to go.
“We have 10 homes in the Amanzimtoti area housing 81 shared living residents, where anyone can go visit, pop by and get to know the oldies, it is a humbling experience and I promise you will definitely be back for a second visit. The oldies always make you feel so welcome, they just love the visits and company.”
In addition to the homes, the organisation conducts a feeding for the elderly who still live at their current accommodations and are unable to move into one of the organisation’s designated homes. They also assist with hospital and clinic visits, pet food, cooked meals and constant check-ups.
The concept of shared living seems to be working well, according to Herbst: “The shared living facilities have been working so well, we have created real homes where there are gardens which the old people love working in, we have a vegetable tunnel which we grow vegetables, we have lay chickens which help with protein in eggs, we have opened a vintage store at 129 Kingsway Road in Warner Beach (next to Casbah) where we sell clothing and goods which allows us to help pay utilities. Many of our elderly make goods which we sell for them on social media or in shops, allowing them to supplement their pension and become contributing members of society.”
Despite having four directors who work behind the scenes to ensure that the elderly have a permanent home, each one of the residents pay R1 400 from their Sassa grant which is used pay the rentals, buy food, pay utilities etc.
“We basically do all of the above with R46,66 a day per person. It is extremely difficult. We get no external funding at all; we are completely reliant on community to assist,” said Herbst.
Running 10 homes is an extremely difficult task, which is why Herbst highlights Sharon Vorster as a vital roleplayer in the organisation. Vorster runs three homes at the Burne Road premises and she has Seta accredited carers who assist her.
“Sadly volunteers are very few and we find that after two or three weeks volunteers stop coming, people don’t like to ‘work for free’ so volunteers are always coming and going. There are a few amazing churches who assist with a cooked meal once a week to one of our homes which is a great help. As well as assisting us with cereals for our homes, we have two amazing doctors who assist us, Dr Nesser and Dr Yuvan Mahraj,” said Herbst.
Some of the residents at the home include a gentleman with Poem’s disease (cell disorder), who was rescued from an abandoned house in Umkomaas and is now thriving at one of the organisation’s homes. Another resident was a stroke victim, who when she arrived at the home was unable to sit; she is now able to converse, is mobile — thanks to a wheelchair, and is making great attempts to walk.
The organisation also assisted an elderly gentleman who couldn’t hear. Now with hearing aids he is able to listen to music again and is no longer isolated. Amongst these heart-warming stories is the first elderly couple who found love in each other at the home.
The community is urged to get involved and visit the Elders Voice homes.
“Pop by and meet the elderly and see how you can help us with hospital and clinic runs. Come see how you can help; groceries are a huge cost for us so a cooked meal goes a long way in assisting us, challenge your friends to all go in their grocery cupboards and take out three items they have not used in months and donate it to the cause, those three items make a huge difference to us. We use everything you use in your house as our homes are all run individually as a fully functioning home,” said Herbst.
“We use 480 litres of long life milk a month, so if you want to know what is top of our wish list it would be long life milk and adult pull-up diapers, especially size medium.
“Of the 81 of our elderly, only 27 get visitors, please come meet them, get to know them, you never know you will make a new friend; their wisdom and stories of yesteryear will keep you enthralled for hours. These were the people who moulded us as a generation and yet they are the forgotten ones. Please help us show them that our generation is one of compassion and empathy and that they raised us well and we do care,” concluded Herbst.
Interested members of the community can visit the Elders Voice website or Facebook page for updates, or contact Joanne Mocke Herbst from the home at 079 028 6379 for further information.