FeaturesPeople Daily

Abandoned in old age

They raise their children, sacrificing a lot for them to have better lives in future. Now they remain neglected in the villages, with no one to take care of them

Harriet James @harriet86jim

Mary Okello, 60, is a widow living in Siaya. All her five sons are working in Nairobi. Her last born daughter gave birth to a son and left him under her care in search of greener pastures. The last time she spoke to her was three years ago when she came home with some shopping and Sh3,000.

Mary only hears that her children have great jobs. A cousin recently told her that her daughter is now married. But Mary is left all alone; sometimes she and her grandchild sleep hungry. She doesn’t have enough strength to do casual labour. Being a widow, she struggled with her children, sacrificing a lot with the hope that they in turn will one day take care of her.

But it has remained just that, a dream. Not just for her, but several parents who denied themselves everything to give their children the best. Now that the children are all grown up, they are nowhere to be found. But where are they?

Busy life

Eric Mwangi, a 28-year-old businessman, is a busy man. So busy, is he trying to establish his business that the last time he went to visit his parents was 10 years ago. He doesn’t remember the last time he sent his parents money too or even called to find out how they are fairing.

A recent meet-up with a distant cousin who informed him that his father had passed on made him reconsider his ways.  “It wasn’t intentional. I just got busy with life.

Also, sometime back, I had an arguement with my parents who always nagged me to find a wife or even send cash while I too need money. But after my cousin told me he lost his father, it served as a wake-up call for me,” he says.

Joyce Wangare, a 32-year-old doctor, attributes her job as a major reason she hasn’t seen her parents for long. Her bread and butter includes spending long hours with patients and sometimes when she finds time, she simply desires to rest. “Before you know it, a week, months, years have passed when you are just procrastinating about visiting them. It’s really not intentional,” she says.

Dr George Owino, a sociologist at Kenyatta University, believes that one of the reasons the youth lack empathy is because of globalisation, which make them vulnerable to genres of music and culture that makes them careless about their parents.

In the traditional societies, various mechanisms were set up to ensure that the old were not neglected. “Nowadays, there is so much focus on success that many people quickly remove the thought of other family members out of the equation.

Everyone gets busy at some point. But it’s up to them to choose how much time they are ready to sacrifice for their parents. Ageing parents require more attention from their adult children. It is possible to be productive at work, while still giving your ageing parents the care and attention you would love to give them,” he argues.

Losing touch

Peer pressure is also another issue, which has resulted in the youth neglecting their parents. It has made many youths please their peers more than finding out how their parents are doing. “The allure for a flamboyant lifestyle and desire for quick and easy riches, which is promoted by media has resulted in a number of the youths losing touch with their parents,” Owino argues.

And while peer pressure has been seen as a bad thing, for James Otieno, a 29-year-old marketing officer, peer pressure has worked well for him as he has joined a group where they save up money to visit their parents. For him, giving to his parents brings blessings and it is mandatory to do so.

“Your parents gave birth to you. They went through all the torture to raise you up most of the time losing their sleep. They took pain for you to study in a great school, paid your school fees for so many years.

They took care of your stay, food, books, extracurricular skills and other vital expenditure for so many years. Why would you turn your back on them now that they are weak and helpless?” he poses.

Owino advises that while some youth allege lack of employment and low wages as the reason they do not   support their parents, it is imperative that they set time to not only see, but also take care of their parents.

Show More

Related Articles