n Africa Journal of Nursing and Midwifery - Existing and evolving in two minds : beliefs in relation to health and illness expressed by older South Africans

Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1682-5055


The aim of the study was to illuminate beliefs in relation to health and illness expressed by older Africans within the context of a society in transition, namely South Africa. An ethnographic research approach influenced by the interpretive phenomenological tradition was selected to gain an understanding of the participants' experiences. A focused ethnographic design was employed, using group and individual in-depth interviews and participant observations. Sixteen elderly persons (ten females and six males) from Hammanskraal, a rural area north of Pretoria, were involved in the research. The findings illuminate a world understanding where body and mind are inseparable and relationships provide the foundation for improving and maintaining health and being cured from illness. The ongoing transition that the elderly in South Africa experience influences health and illness beliefs, with a need to adapt to existing parallel health care systems, Western biomedicine and African traditional medicine. As the study draws attention to the importance of caring for the elderly to be contextualised, it is recommended that the care of the elderly be applied to the unique needs of the individual involved. Failure to do so may otherwise have severe consequences such as an apparent high risk of developing stereotypes, which can lead to cultural misunderstandings, prejudice and discrimination.

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