Current Projects

Assessing the needs, health and well-being of older adults in Cape Town, South Africa

The South African health system is poorly equipped to deal with the needs of the elderly. Community-dwelling older people in South Africa face challenges accessing appropriate care and support. The current primary healthcare system both in the private and public sector do not necessarily take the specific needs of older people into account. To cater to a growing population of older people, the healthcare system needs to be made more-age friendly, particularly at the primary care level. Given health systems limitations, there is a need for novel approaches using non-healthcare professionals to assist with identifying problems in community settings. Multidimensional instruments to identify the needs and cognitive and health status of older people in community settings have been developed for high-income contexts, but few comprehensive instruments exist that can be administered by non-healthcare professionals. 

The main goal of this project is to develop an assessment instrument that can be used by community workers to produce outputs for use by primary care professionals, enabling them to provide more appropriate care. To develop such an instrument, it is first important to understand older people’s particular health and social needs. In South Africa, little is known about these needs, how they define them and the degree to which they are being met. Furthermore, people’s perception and experiences of ageing and health are highly subjective and contextual. 

The proposed study will use a mixed-method approach to investigate the health and social needs of older people living in three communities in Cape Town, as well as their expectations and experiences of the healthcare system. The project will also develop, pilot and validate a primary care instrument that can be used by community workers to gather health, well-being and quality of life information on older people for use by primary care professionals. As well as assisting individuals and healthcare professionals, data collected through the instrument will also be analysed to deepen our understanding of the needs of older people in these communities and the factors that influence health outcomes. This de-identified data will be shared with interRAI, an international collaboration of researchers interested in geriatrics, which will use this data to compare the health and well-being of older people in Cape Town to the health and well-being of older people in other communities around the world. 

Caregiver capacity building 

Organisations providing care to older persons living in residential care facilities have identified the need to improve the skill level of caregivers working in their facilities. This project aims to review the regulatory and policy framework and programmes currently in place to train caregivers of elderly people. Based on this review, we hope to develop a standardised training programme for carers that enhances the skills of those working or hoping to find work in this sector. This will that enhance the quality of elderly care and improve the ability of carers to find meaningful work opportunities. 

SIFAR plans to engage with stakeholders across multiple sectors to develop a SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) approved training programme that can be offered by organisations by organisations accredited with the Health and Welfare Sector Training Authority (SETA). Those who successfully complete this accredited training will be added to a Carer Licencing Register and it is envisaged that all elderly care service providers will only employ registered carers. It is expected that this will improve the quality of care that service providers are able to provide to the older population. 

Assessing the training of healthcare professionals in geriatric issues

The aim of this scoping study is to learn what training health sciences students currently receive at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. This will provide insight on the extent to which healthcare professionals are prepared during their training to work with the elderly.

Data will be collected by conducting meetings with relevant stakeholders in the health education space to discuss the curriculums taught in the various universities and colleges that provide training to healthcare professionals in the Western Cape.

This research aims to pave the way for further engagements with healthcare professionals and training and professional bodies around challenges faced in caring for the elderly and associated training needs.