Rodrick Bhatare in his 90s said that he felt bittersweet at the celebration for his 103-year old fellow resident, just a week after he arrived at the facility.
He said, "I haven’t been so happy in a very while." He said, "I just wish I was doing this with my family." His family, which was hard hit by the pandemics, could not provide for him.
Some families in Zimbabwe are having to give up the centuries-old tradition of caring for older people because of COVID-19's economic ruin.
Some wander the streets. Lucky ones find themselves in facilities for the elderly, which were once considered "un-African" by many Zimbabweans. They are against the social bonds that have kept extended families together for generations.
Priscilla Gavi, executive director at HelpAge Zimbabwe, stated that older people are often overlooked and "silent victims” of the pandemic.
Gavi stated that "Parents and elderly relatives have become an additional strain in this pandemic so even though it goes against the culture, many are finding old people’s homes as their only option."
She said that Zimbabwe's care homes saw a 60% rise in admissions after the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Most of the country's 170 facilities for older persons are now full.
According to HelpAge International, COVID-19 has increased abuse and neglect among older people in Africa and the rest of the world.
The report "Bearing the Brunt" shows that older people are not only at high risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19 but also suffer chronic neglect in recovery and response efforts.
The experience of older adults in care facilities is both a source and a saving grace.
Bhatare stated that he was able to stay with his daughters and his other relatives after he retired as a quarry miner around two decades ago.
When COVID-19 struck, Bhatare was living with his niece and her four children. Their income from selling street goods fell. Bhatare started to forage for food on the streets in order to survive. Concerned neighbors alerted HelpAge. They found him a home in the Melfort home about 50 km (30 miles) east Harare.
"My daughters are married, but they are also struggling. He said that he had become a strain on everyone.
The economy of Zimbabwe was already in crisis before the pandemic. More than 80% of urban households struggle to purchase basic food supplies. Large numbers of rural families are also suffering from hunger, according the World Food Program.