Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2022
During conversations with older (and younger) people in Kwahu-Tafo, a rural town in southern Ghana, I sometimes brought up the topic of old people's homes as they exist in my own country, the Netherlands. The older people then asked what those homes looked like and I described them in as neutral terms as possible. Some of the older people rejected the idea of handing over the care of older relatives to ‘strangers’ but surprisingly most reacted positively, even enthusiastically. One older man, living without any relatives in his own house, responded:
That would be very, very good for Ghana. I for one if I had been taken to an institution to care for me, I would be happy. Because, when I get there, I will meet my classmates and friends. [Here] in the house, you will always find me alone, if my wife is not around. There will be no wife and so your partners [other residents] will be your ‘wife’ and everything. You will take the old people as your mates…If my wife is not strong and I feel lonely, I will prefer to go there. You are comforted…some happiness, games, crack jokes, and so on. You won't remember anything [you won't worry about anything]. But when you are alone, you will think [be troubled] all the time. If you are properly fed, breakfast, lunch and dinner, you won't feel anything.
Often, however, when the discussion continued, doubts began to arise: Ghana was too poor to run such homes for older people. Moreover, the homes would be overcrowded in no time as everybody would rush to live there. So, old people's homes did not seem a realistic option for a country like Ghana, however attractive they might seem to be.
This chapter explores what the future may hold for older people in Ghana in this era of rapid globalisation. I will first present a rural ethnographic case study of how older people are currently cared for. Next I will look at Ghanaian policy on the welfare of older people and a few attempts to find solutions for the present challenges in the care for older people due to decreasing family support, migration and increasing longevity. Finally I will draw some cautious conclusions or rather raise questions about the future of care for older people in Ghana.