Can you imagine being eighty years old, needing a knee replacement operation, because you have bone grinding on bone plus nerve endings, but you can’t afford the procedure? The knee replacement will cost just US$10,000, but that is so far beyond your means, it might as well cost a million. Currently, you can’t even afford the pain medication. In a normal world, the operation would be no problem. You were a company director, or an engineer, or a headmaster for forty years. You were prudent and responsible, saved wisely your whole working life long, investing in property, and a pension scheme, and a retirement annuity policy that should have kicked in at age sixty-five, but alas, they didn’t.
Because you don’t live in a normal world, you live in Zimbabwe. And during Zimbabwe’s first hyperinflation in 2008, all your pension funds and savings got wiped out and were reduced to zero. You were forced to sell your family home, so you could survive off the proceeds. But alas, they also got wiped out. And then impossibly, things got worse. Unable to cope with school fees let alone university fees, your children were forced to emigrate to the other side of the world in search of a future for their children, your grandchildren. But greener pastures are tough in the beginning, and your children are struggling to find their feet again and to rebuild their lives. They phone you often, to find out if you are okay and coping, but because you know that things are also tough where they are, you put on a brave face and tell them everything is fine. Alas.
And so, you are now charity dependent, for your rent, and your food and your medicines. You are a proud man, and you hate that, but you have no other option. You’ve broached the subject of the knee op with the nice lady who visits you every fortnight with your food parcel, but she says the charity is struggling to fundraise in the coronavirus crisis. And so you sit, with your brave face on but slipping, in pain and feeling helpless. You are certainly not alone.
There are thousands of pensioners in Zimbabwe in exactly the same position as you. But if anything, that makes it feel worse. Alas. Moved by their plight, The Old Legs Tour has pedalled 10,000 kilometres across Africa in the last 3 years, from Cape Town to Kilimanjaro, raising more than $300,000 for the cause in the process. It sounds like a lot of money, but at $10,000 per operation, it is not enough. And the word alas continues to be closely associated with Zimbabwe’s pensioners.
To make a bigger difference going forward, the Old Legs have decided to form a Trust, complete with Trustees tasked with establishing an Emergency Medical Fund that pensioners can turn to for help. If you would like to more information on the Old Legs, or if you would like to contribute to the Medical Fund in anyway, please contact Aoife Connolly.