Regional Overview

We are a team of 35 researchers working in seventeen research sites across four different countries in Southern Africa. The sample sites vary radically by income, ethnicity, size, geographical location and more. Older persons in some sites live close to clinics and have support from NPO organisations, some older persons are in receipt of state pensions whilst some are living in areas governed by traditional leadership. The place of care shapes the experience of care, and it allows us to make sense of what care means in context. Over the next two years, we will be working with caregivers and care receivers in over 80 families in each country trying to understand how family care for older persons is experienced.

South Africa

South Africa has approximately 5.4 million people over the age of 60 who make up approximately 9 percent of the population. This is projected to increase to 20% (approx. 11.5 million older persons) by 2050. The vast majority, almost two thirds of black and coloured older persons live in multi-generational households.


Malawi has a population of approximately 18 million people, 52 percent are considered to be living in poverty. Eighty-four percent of Malawi’s population live in rural areas (NSO 2019), the vast majority working as smallholder farmers depending primarily on self-sufficiency in maize production for survival.


Botswana has a population of just over 2.5 million people. Older persons in Botswana represent approx. 7 percent of the population in 2020 but this is predicted to increase to just under 15 percent by 2050. There is widespread receipt of state pensions in Botswana. The state has a National Focal Point on ageing and a national strategy / plan on ageing.


A country with the second lowest population density in the world, Namibia is a vast country, with a population of approximately 2.6 million people. Only seven percent of the population is age 60 and older but this will increase to approximately 12 percent by 2050. Almost three quarters of all older persons are living in a rural area.

In thinking about family caregiving, we consider the different care needs of the older person, we think about who is living in the household and we think about the relational dynamics between the care receiver and other members of the household. Contexts of care are shaped by access to resources, so we also reflect on the income and other material resources available to caregivers and receivers.

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