Assessment of Older Persons’ Participation in Community Development Activities in Tharaka Nithi County, Kenya
Kawira, Mutegi Josphine
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The accelerated population ageing has become a development concern in the 21stcentury with nations least prepared to deal with the consequences of population ageing. To address these consequences, older persons should be encouraged to become active participants on issues impacting their lives. However, older persons have not been able to fully participate in development process with reports showing low levels of participation in social, economic, political and cultural activities. This study sought to assess involvement of older persons to community development. Specifically, the study sought to assess extent of older person’s participation in community development activities in Tharaka Nithi County, identify factors that hinder participation of older persons in development, assess the effects of non-participation of older persons in development and suggest measures to enhance older person’s participation in community development. The study was anchored in the political economy of ageing theory which demonstrates the differences in how older persons act which is influenced by social, economic and political structures that shape ageing. The study employed descriptive survey design by combining both qualitative and quantitative methods. A simple random sampling method was used to select a sample of 157 older persons from the target population of 7,730 older persons from Tharaka Nithi County. Additionally, 3 social development officers, 3 administrative officers and 1 faith-based leader were purposively selected on the basis of their knowledge, expertise and experience of working with older persons for in-depth interviews. Data was collected using questionnaire, interview schedule and through personal observations. Data was analyzed using frequency count and percentages and presented in form of tables and graphs. The researcher sought approvals from graduate school, ethics review committee, NACOSTI and relevant county government bodies in addition, participants were informed the purpose of the study and their consent sought before questions were administered. The researcher assured them of confidentiality before, during and after the study. The study established older persons participated in community development through paid labour, engaging in leisure and cultural activities, providing informal child care, participation in elections through voting and being active members of Nyumba kumi initiatives. Participation in social and cultural activities was moderate and relatively low in economic and political domains. The study further established a combination of individual, social, economic and political factors influencing participation of older persons in community development activities. The study concluded that low participation of older persons in community development activities exposed them to poverty, inability to access resources, inadequate representation in decision-making and poor public services and isolation as well as poor physical and mental health. The study concluded that these effects of low participation exposed them to become socially excluded in community development activities leaving them more vulnerable and marginalized by the rest of the community. The study recommends government, other stakeholders to encourage and support older persons to access equal opportunities to participate in community development activities as well as play an active role in providing solutions to their challenges. The study findings will be useful in informing work/labour force policies, strategies and programs by local and national governments as well as development partners in addressing older person’s rights.