Ask Bernard Ndege what loneliness looks like, and he might just tell you that it’s life for a septuagenarian in a home for the elderly amidst a Covid-19 pandemic.
Together with dozens of elderly colleagues at Nyumba ya Wazee in Tudor, Mombasa County, where he has spent more than 30 years, Mzee Ndege’s life was turned completely upside down by the coronavirus.
“Happiness is like a mirage here due to the pandemic. We’re very lonely and bored. Before the pandemic, we used to walk about in Tudor, visit the neighbourhood and friends, but we no-longer have that life. We’re in a cage; its like a prison. No one wants us to visit them due to the virus,” Mzee Ndege says.
Freak road accident
At first, the seniors would keenly follow the daily Ministry of Health briefings on the country’s coronavirus status. However, the briefings became too stressful and they stopped watching them.
Mzee Ndege sought solace at the elderly home 40 years ago after he was injured in a freak road accident. The father of two was admitted to hospital and later discharged after failing to pay a bill in excess of Sh100,000.
“I survived the road accident, but with broken limps. I was taken to Coast General [Teaching and Referral] Hospital where I spent 10 years before a Good Samaritan came and helped me,” he says.
With failing memory, he cannot remember the last time he visited his Kirinyaga home. Nyumba ya Wazee has been his only home with fond memories. But he says his family, including his wife who remarried once it was announced that he had died are not aware that he’s alive.
At the home, they are clothed, fed and housed. Those who fall sick are taken to hospital and treated while those who die due to old age are buried at the county cemeteries.
For John Njiru, 74, who has lived at the home for seven years, life has been pure bliss. He says he has found love, peace and family at the home.
Lived in shanties
The home has 14 social workers who cook and clean for them and also bathe them.
The youngest resident is Anne Wamboi who has lived at Nyumba ya Wazee for 13 years. She joined the home at 38 years old.
The woman from Kiambu County used to live in shanties outside the port of Mombasa before she was rescued and taken to the old people’s home by a pastor.
Public Health Chief Officer Aisha Abubakar says the elderly are being monitored closely as they’re vulnerable to the disease.