Study title
From "Cure to Care" Among The Elderly. Old-Age Vulnerability In Tanzania
Ref study 9332
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Gender
  • Elderly people
  • Health transition
  • Care support
  • Old-age vulnerability
  • Resilience
  • Old-age dynamics
  • Rural-urban networks
Current times, Demographic data: 1998-2011
Geographical space
Tanzania: Coast Region (Rufiji District: Ikwiriri and Bumba) and Dar es Salaam Region (Temeke Municipality, Mbagala Ward)
Old-age research in relation to culture, health and illness in developing countries is gradually gaining in importance in the social sciences. However, social anthropology studies on elder care, care support schemes and burden of elder care are only in its initial stage. This proposed research builds on a selected review of current literature and on findings of a previous study of the applicant on old-age vulnerability in Southeast Asia, where care needs related to chronic illnesses were identified by the elderly persons as principal spheres of concern. As a matter of fact, in non-Western societies the degree of old-age vulnerability is influenced to a great extent by providing - or just failing - care support.
This medical anthropology research study is based upon the conceptual framework of 'health transition' - that includes rapid demographic and epidemiological transformation, socio-cultural change, fast urbanisation and migration as well as broad change of lifestyle in most developing countries - and correlates it with the assumption of growing social, eco-nomic and health uncertainties (i.e. uncertain family, kinship and community support; minimal state provision; increased risk of suffering concurrently from infectious and chronic disease) for elderly people nowadays in most devel-oping countries. Harsh living conditions for many elderly people in Sub-Saharan Africa, shaped, for instance, by economic poverty, poor access to professional health services and last but not least the HIV/AIDS pandemic, put already a heavy burden and strain on the older persons whose most important asset is still a healthy body and mind. Along with the global processes of 'health transition' and above triple uncertainties, appropriate and adequate care for frail elderly may become a major challenge for most societies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The above-stated transformations postulate a distinct shift 'from cure to care'. Care in this sense is understood as both practice and attitude and encompasses more than mere medical activities. Households 'produce' not only health, but also care which belongs to the biggest part into the realm of laypeople and of women as principal caregivers. The 'vulnerability' concept refines these approaches by regarding elderly individuals as being social actors who share particular risks and exposures, but who can mobilise coping resources and potentials to prevent, mitigate or overcome bad outcomes.
The six specific research objectives are
(1) to investigate elderly persons' perception of 'old age' (emic view),
(2) to identify relationship of main carer(s) to chronically ill elderly,
(3) to look into resources and capacities of elderly people which strengthen their resilience regarding care and support,
(4) to explore the significance of rural-urban relations for chronically ill elderly persons,
(5) to find out the role and burden of elder caregivers, and
(6) to assess nature and priority of care improvements of chronically ill elderly people (emic view).
Qualitative and, on a smaller scale, quantitative research methods are applied to achieve these objectives. The study approach comprises different societal levels, namely community, household and individuals, and diverse stakeholders.
The research period will last three years (July 2008-June 2011). In order to study urban-rural dynamics in relation to care schemes and old-age vulnerabilities as well as mobility of elderly people and their caregivers, we have designed a research approach that includes a rural and an urban area. Main research area and also 'point of departure' is the Rufiji District (in Pwani or Coast Region), and metropolitan Dar es Salaam will be the selected urban environment. In Tanzania, we have an interdisciplinary and international research team including one country and one field coordinator plus two PhD students (of social anthropology); the main applicant acts as principal project coordinator.
This project makes a major contribution to old-age research in developing countries, particularly to care schemes. The effects of 'health transition' and concomitant HIV/AIDS and poverty on elder care schemes in non-Western societies are not yet widely studied and understood, thus this research fills this gap of knowledge. Moreover, this study strengthens the international dimension of North-South research and exchange. And finally, it will provide empirically grounded recommendations for Tanzanian researchers, politicians and policy-makers.
Methods (description)
Research Approach:
Encompassing Different Societal Levels:
A) Review of recent and current literature, library and archive studies.
B) Stakeholder study on international, national, regional and local level.
C) Community study in 2 rural sites (=2 villages from Rufiji DSS area).
D) Household study in the above 2 rural sites (N=100) and 1 urban area (=Temeke Municipality; N=50).
E) Age cohort study deriving from above household study with focus on individual elderly (>60 years) in rural (N=50) and urban area (N=25).
F) Comparison of findings in reference to other studies through dissemination of first results.

Erhebungsverfahren: Inhaltsanalyse offen, Akten- und Dokumentenanalyse offen, Beobachtung teilnehmend, Beobachtung nicht teilnehmend, Gruppendiskussion, Qualitatives Interview, Standardisierte Befragung face to face, Standardisierte Befragung schriftlich, Sekundäranalyse von Aggregatdaten, Anderes Verfahren Self-Reporting/Diary Keeping
Erhebungseinheiten: Elderly People 60+ and all Household Members (of Households with Elderly People)
Auswahlverfahren: Random Sampling (Random and Stratified)
Anzahl Untersuchungseinheiten: please see above
Untersuchungsdesign: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Study
Durchführung der Feldarbeit: Project Collaborators and Part-Time Field Assistants plus interviewers from Rufiji DSS
Weiter relevante Präzisierungen: Rufiji DSS (Demographic Surveillance System) will provide different baseline data of 33 villages.
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
Financed by
  • SNSF Subsidy (N° 100012-117857-1)
  • Other: Amt für Ausbildungsbeiträge Kt. BS (für tansanischen Doktoranden)
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 01.07.2013
Date modified 01.07.2013
Start - End date 01.07.2008 - 28.06.2011