A landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia has a population of approximately 16.5 million. At 6 children per woman, the country’s fertility rate is amongst the world’s highest. The median age in Zambia is only 16.8 years of age, with a total life expectancy of 52.7 years which ranks as the 6th youngest median age in the world.
Due to its youthful population and low life-expectancy, the problems of the older demographic have traditionally been overshadowed by issues requiring a more urgent response, such as the AIDS outbreak in the early 2000s which continues to plague the nation.
According to Mapoma et. al 2012, currently “studies on aging, particularly risk factors that may engender social isolation amongst the elderly population in Zambia, are almost nonexistent.” It is difficult to find data on the topic with the most ‘recent’ figures coming from the census conducted in 2010. As of that year, there were about 500,000 elderly people in the country although scholars suggest that this is a conservative figure since many who live in rural areas may not have been accounted for (Chirwa and Kalinda 2016).
NGOs highlight the plight of the elderly in the country, many of whom are either caregivers to people with HIV or are left with unmet needs with nobody to look after them. When it comes to dementia care, little work has been done to ensure that people with dementia have access to appropriate resources to live full and healthy lives.
One organization, Aged Care and Service Centre, is actively trying to improve the state of dementia care in Zambia. A volunteer organization, operating in the Nakonde district and the 10 surrounding villages, 25 volunteers support 950 older people and their families at the Aged Care and Service Centre. Anderson Simfukwe is the Founder and Executive Director of this first-of-its-kind organization in Zambia. He gave up his full-time job as a headteacher to pursue his passion for serving the needs of people with dementia. Anderson works together with Mary, a multilingual nurse, and a human rights advocate. Together, Anderson, Mary and their support network of volunteers are actively trying to change people’s attitudes towards dementia and those who live with the disease.