How Nelson Mandela inspired me as an older person
Elizabeth Marie Mkame is an Age Demands Action activist from South Africa. She is also an active board member for HelpAge Affiliate, the Muthande Society for the Aged.
Nelson Mandela was a great man who was loved and respected by everyone in our country and the rest of the world. He led by example, kept no grudges and loved his country and its people more than himself. He encouraged togetherness. It was on this day 25 years ago, that he was freed from prison after 27 years.
I was inspired by the way he stepped down as President after one term and believed those he was leaving behind were capable of running the country. I personally learnt a lot from him. He did not want to hoard leadership.
Sustainable development for South Africa
He kept positive and was always thinking of sustainable development for South Africa. Because of his wonderful example, I have become as involved as I could with my community.
The aim of my work is to lift up others. I feel so inspired when people remind me how I helped them when I worked for the Diakonia Council of Churches. I established 14 Community Resource Centres using church buildings to train young people.
These centres were used by people who were unable to pay lawyer’s fees. Those who benefitted most were older people who wanted access to their benefits after their spouses’ deaths. It was hard work, but one has to be patient and show love and respect to people in need. This led me to see the need for organisations that serve older people’s needs.
Older people are making their voices heard
I was inspired to get involved in setting up and building an old age home; when people were forced to move from one area to another.
The dismantling of family structures was extremely disheartening for many people. Nelson Mandela gave us hope that one day we were going to be free.
Today older people of our country have rights and entitlements that are secured and enshrined in the constitution. Though there are still challenges with its implementation, because of Mandela’s leadership, we as older people are able to be part of campaigns like Age Demands Action and make our voices heard.
Creativity was his motto and it is what he strived for for the people of South Africa. Many business people offered to build schools and clinics in rural areas. The country was owned by everyone who lived in it. So the culture of Mandela was to see progress as fast as possible while the time was there.
Pushing for older people's rights
Age Demands Action is a pillar of strength because we get to push for the rights of older people. Also as a member of the ADA Steering Group, I travel long distances to encourage and inspire young and older people to work and understand one another in order to create a better environment for all of us. Nelson Mandela was all out to see peace and stability for the people of the world.
At the end of his first term in office he said “it is in your hands” and handed over the baton to us all. What a shining example of active ageing!
Find out how you can get involved in our Age Demands Action campaign.