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Imafidon, Elvis, Iyare, Austin E. and Abudu, Kenneth U. (2022) 'Ageing, Ageism, Cultural Representations of the Elderly and the Duty to Care in African Traditions.' In: Chimakonam, Jonathan O., Eiteyibo, Edwin and Odimegwu, Ike, (eds.), Essays on Contemporary Issues in African Philosophy. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature, pp. 281-300.

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Ageing as a natural process leads one gradually to a life’s stage where one becomes frail and elderly. In this life’s stage, due primarily to the wearing out of the body system, a number of health-related challenges arise. Such may include weakening of the bones which would affect body physique and structure, partial loss of memory, and poor vision. It is thus expected that the frail and elderly would be in need of more care and would become more dependent on the young and energetic class of the society who has the duty and moral responsibility to care. In this essay, we examine a disturbing cultural representation or ideology common in many sub-Saharan African societies, an ideology that is counterproductive to the health and well-being of the frail and elderly and causes stigma, discrimination and harm to such persons. It is the worldview that the frail and elderly are in some way and in some respect harmful to the class of younger persons and they remain alive by, through the practice of witchcraft, taking the lives of younger persons in the family, kin or community. This disturbing belief becomes a source of stigma, discrimination and harm against the frail and elderly, especially in situations where younger persons in a community, kin or family die before the frail and elderly person. In this essay, with reference to specific scenarios and examples where such cultural representations have resulted in the harming of frail and elderly persons, we analyse the extent to which such beliefs hinder our duty to care for the elderly in contemporary African societies. We begin by conceptualising the nature of ageing and the aged or old, paying specific attention to how biological understanding of these concepts and stages of life for human beings may be quite different from cultural and social representations and understanding of such as human history shows. We then proceed to examine the nature and basis of cultural representations of the elderly in specific African communities using specific examples and examining the paradox between African respect for community elders and seeming cases of disrespect for the very frail and elderly. We further discuss the moral duty and responsibility to care for the elderly by the younger persons in the community. We then show how this disturbing trend is perpetuated both by traditional beliefs and representations and modern religious beliefs such as those in Pentecostalism. We conclude by showing why the pursuit of enlightenment is needed to curb this growing and disturbing treatment of the frail and elderly in sub-Saharan African societies.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of Religions & Philosophies
ISBN: 9783030704353
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2022 14:59

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