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Understanding the vulnerability of older adults: extent of and breaches in support systems in Uganda



Older adults’ vulnerability and resilience are a result of processes constructed throughout the lifecycle. In Uganda, older people almost always rely exclusively on their social networks for care and economic support when in need. These support systems are mainly family based, and play a role of safety net for their older members. However, localised in-depth studies have pointed out the limitations of family-based support systems, especially in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This paper uses 83 in-depth interviews conducted in various settings across Uganda with older people and their family members on the subject of their support systems. Over and above the lack of immediate/personal resources characterising most older people, our results highlight the importance of the extent of support systems and resource diversity. Most of the people in our case studies had lost descendants due to the civil war, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, or simply family break-ups, events which often create large breaches and gaps in support systems. Few older people can be resilient in this situation, primarily because there are often not enough resources available in their support networks to cover the needs of all, especially education for the young and health-care access for the old.


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Address for correspondence:Valérie Golaz, INED, 133 Bd Davout, 75980 Paris Cedex 20, France E-mail:


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Understanding the vulnerability of older adults: extent of and breaches in support systems in Uganda



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