‘I am not old’: Perspectives and experiences of aging in South Africa
South Africa is a relatively youthful country, but projections suggest that in the future older people will constitute a larger share of the total population. The ageing of the population is likely to have major and far-reaching implications for a country with widespread poverty, changing household structures, a heavy burden of communicable diseases, and inadequate health infrastructure. There is little consensus on the definition of old age. The aim of this study is to address this gap by exploring the definition and meaning of ageing. The study draws on qualitative data from 40 in-depth interviews with men and women aged 60 years and over. The study suggest that the aged refers to those who are infirm, frail, and suffering incapacities to the extent that they are no longer able to fully support or take care of themselves, and who also display the physical characteristics of being old such as having wrinkles and grey hairs. However, it was pointed out in the interviews that functional ageing does not always correspond with chronological age. The study found that old age is seen to begin at that point in life when people, because of physical decline and the onset of ill-health, are no longer able to actively carry out their work and family roles. The study suggest that social constructions of ageing are of greater importance in trying to understand the process of ageing in Africa.