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The impact of adult mortality on the living arrangements of older people in rural South Africa

  • VICTORIA HOSEGOOD (a1) (a2) and IAN M. TIMÆUS (a1) (a2)

This paper examines changes in households with older people in a northern rural area of KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa, between January 2000 and January 2002. The focus is the impact of adult deaths, especially those from AIDS, on the living arrangements of older people. The longitudinal data are from the Africa Centre Demographic Information System. In 2000, 3,657 older people (women aged 60 years or older, men 65 years or older) were resident in the area, and 3,124 households had at least one older member. The majority (87%) of older people lived in three-generation households. Households with older people were significantly poorer, more likely to be headed by a woman, and in homesteads with poorer quality infrastructure than households without older members. By January 2002, 316 (8%) of the older people in the sample had died. Of all the households with an older person, 12 per cent experienced at least one adult death from AIDS. The paper shows that older people, particularly those living alone or with children in the absence of other adults, were living in the poorest households. They were also coping with an increasing burden of young adult deaths, the majority of which were attributable to AIDS.

Corresponding author
Centre for Population Studies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK. e-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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