Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2022
In this chapter we position ourselves at the intersection of current socio-economic and epidemiological trends with population ageing but also at the interface of care and the family. Care here refers to a wide continuum of exchanges by individuals to one another, both tangible and intangible (see Kahn and Antonucci, 1980). The capacity of family networks to care for both older as well as younger dependants is severely limited by socio-economic factors but also by the impact of pandemics such as HIV/AIDS. This is specifically the case, for example, in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where caregiving is negotiated within constrained societal development with family poverty a common phenomenon, which is further exacerbated by the AIDS pandemic in particular. HIV/AIDS-infected people in South Africa number around 6 million with an estimated 1.2 million children orphaned by AIDS. Approximately 60 per cent of these orphans live in grandparent-headed multi-generational families with particularly grandmothers acting as surrogate parents. These grandmothers often also simultaneously care for HIV-positive adult and/or unemployed children. Some academic, policy and programmatic concern, particularly in the context of HIV/AIDS, has focused on the economic and social costs of care provided by older to younger generations, but the attention focused on the other part of the configuration – the question of care for older persons – is negligible. The following questions call for answers: Who will care for these older carers when they are in need of social and health care? How will the experiential aspects of the current intergenerational support and the understanding of such support norms relate to future expectations of generational support for older generations?
Through a generational sequential2 analysis based on 58 narratives from 20 Nguni-speaking multi-generational networks conducted over the period of two years in the city of Emalahleni, Mpumalanga (South Africa), this chapter sets out to explore expectations for the future care of older people where there is currently mainly downward support by older generations for younger generations. It further endeavours to establish how these expectations impact on intergenerational dynamics. The up to five generations interviewed are broadly located in roughly three historically distinctive periods ranging from the so-called ‘disempowered’ Apartheid older/oldest generations (G1/G2) through the ‘struggle’ generations (G2/G3 – middle generations) to the youngest generations – the grandchildren (G3) and great-grandchildren (G4/G5) from the post-Apartheid era.