My name is Alloise Fana Ngcobo, I am 72 and live in Clermont Township, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
One day in 2020 I felt pain on the left side of my chest. It was during the pandemic, when older people were advised not to use public transport and to stay home.
I took painkillers but the pain only got worse. When lockdown restrictions were eased, I visited a local clinic which referred me to my local hospital. I was examined and referred to the cardiology department of the district hospital.
On the day of my hospital appointment, it was a very cold so I wore a big warm jacket. When it was my turn to have my blood pressure taken, the nurse put the monitor over my jacket. I asked “Nurse, how are you going to get the correct reading?” She looked annoyed and replied “Look, I’m in a hurry, the doctor will be leaving soon.”
When I was examined by the doctor, she put the stethoscope to my chest without first unbuttoning my shirt and told me “You are very old, and your heart is old too.” She only wrote a referral to the local hospital. I was not given any medication.
I immediately recognised that I had experienced ageism. I remembered what I learned about ageism at the celebration of the International Day of Older Persons in October 2019, when the Muthande Society for the Aged took part in the Age Demands Action campaign supported by HelpAge International.
Leaving the hospital, I said: “Doctor, I am a victim of ageism. Just because I am old does not mean I do not have the right to health, I am being discriminated against because of my age.” I reported the case to the Muthande Society for the Aged who is planning to act and address the issue together with the paralegal officer and older citizen monitors (OCM).
The devastation caused by the pandemic has hit older people hard, and we need all the support we can get. Campaigns and activities targeting older people will benefit all who have experienced COVID-19 but still face systemic ageism.
I have immensely benefited from all the programmes that Muthande offered us. Voiceless older people are being empowered to fight all forms of discrimination and abuse.
Story by Nqobile Memory Dlamini, Muthande Society for the Aged