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Isolation Leads To Depression amongst South Africa’s Elderly

Guest blog from Devan Moonsamy

In an ideal world, the elderly would settle with their immediate family when they were no longer able to care for themselves and that would be that.

Recent statistics released by the World Health Organisation have shown that the elderly are growing significantly as a population group, a phenomenon that the WHO says cannot be ignored. A significant concern for this population group is that it often becomes a forgotten generation that is left to fend for themselves.

However, not everyone has the luxury of having immediate family to take on the role as a carer, and let’s be honest, not everyone is suited to be a carer or has the necessary skills to be able to take on this task. So while we agree that family is key, they often cannot take on this role in its entirity. Support for families is vital; choosing the right carer is key – having someone who is optimally paid and looked after will ensure that your family member is in the best hands.

Ageing well is about older people experiencing self-satisfaction, being independent and feeling cared for. Feeling cared for includes social integration, living a life of purpose and feeling secure. In contrast, many ageing people feel that they have been sidelined and left to live out their last days in care facilities (Midlarsky, Kahana & Belser, 2014). When ageing people are left to fend for themselves, they experience a host challenges, including social isolation and in severe cases, being vulnerable to the whims of caregivers and abuse. Covid has not made this any easier on this demographic.

Social isolation and loneliness are common issues which occur globally, amongst all age groups and demographics. The persistence of stressors that contribute to social isolation and loneliness can have implications including stress, distress and a number of other mental health issues. Interventions that address these issues have to be dealt with at an individual level. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people need to satisfy their basic needs in order to progress to higher needs such as love and belonging. With the failure to realise such needs, people become vulnerable to ill-health, distress and their overall wellbeing is compromised.

In order for the older person to feel secure and loved they need to have their basic needs met. These basic needs are ideally met by family, but it is not unreasonable for them to get help and support. With the right help and support older people feel comfortable, they feel secure and they can then focus on their lives, their happiness and their emotional wellbeing. This in turn extends to their family who will also be able to focus on their happiness and emotional well-being.

For more information about Devan Moonsamy please visit

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