From Cure to Care: Old Age Social Vulnerability and Resilience in Urban and Rural Tanzania


The ageing of societies is a major global achievement. Global demographic estimates show that until 2050, the absolute number of elderly people over 60 years will at least double in Sub-Saharan Africa. In spite of this stunning increase in number, the percentage of elderly per country will remain relatively low (e.g. in Tanzania 5.1% in 2008 and projected 7.7% in 2050). This research project takes off from the conceptual framework of ‘health transition’, which includes demographic and epidemiological transformation, socio-cultural change, urbanisation and migration as well as change of lifestyle. Our study focus will be on the changes in health needs and expectations, where elderly people increasingly face the high risk of infectious as well as chronic diseases. Care-giving and health care provision therefore become more crucial and imply a more comprehensive understanding and management of health and illness: the shift from ‘cure to care’ comes true.

In this research project we will make a step forward from old age vulnerability to old age resilience. By doing so, we would like to broaden the perspective from analyzing hardships and afflictions which elderly people face in care schemes towards an analysis of abilities and solutions elderly may develop to over-come challenging situations. Our aim is to understand why some elderly people are able to activate health resources as well as positively respond to and even anticipate health related risks, changes or adversities, while others fail. Furthermore, we try to explore the relationship between agency of elderly people and the structural factors that inhibit or enable their resilience in the context of care support. We will examine the relationship between social resilience and vulnerability which may consist of social, but also of cultural, psychological and economic reasons to understand the role of past and present life experiences in its context.

Project Leader: Dr. Piet van Eeuwijk

Team: Dr. Joyce Nyoni, Dr. Honorati Masanja, Vendelin Simon MA, Jana Gerold MA

Advisory Board: Prof. Dr. Brigit Obrist, Prof. Dr. Till Förster, Prof. Dr. Marcel Tanner, Prof. Dr. Don de Savigny

Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) 

Duration: 07.2008 - 06.2011