Kitty Malherbe examines the legislative and policy developments that led to the enactment of the Older Persons Act 13 of 2006, designed to address the unacceptable levels of abuse and neglect suffered by older persons in residential care as well as in their communities and ensure that they receive the care and protection to which they are entitled. While the Act may have facilitated greater access to services for older persons, it is argued that the focus is still too much on residential services and not enough on older persons living in their communities.

The state, however, has made it clear that its duty to provide care applies only to indigent and frail older persons who lack family care. Yet many older persons live with family who cannot cope with the burden of caring for them, and community organisations cannot lend the support required without state assistance. The Older Persons Act regulates community-based care and support services as well as residential facilities and broadens the scope of financial assistance to community organisations. The lack of enforcement mechanisms, however, detracts from the advances, and older persons seeking to enforce their equality rights in terms of the Act will have to seek their remedies beyond the Act.

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