Role of social protection on nutritional status of elderly persons: the case of Imenti North District, Kenya
Elderly persons are defined as persons aged 60 years and above. Unlike other demographic groups, there is relatively little information about the situation of elderly people in Kenya. Although identified as vulnerable, the nutritional status of the elderly has not been viewed as critical as that of mothers and children. The objectives of this study were to determine the nutritional status of the elderly, the Household Dietary Diversity Scores and how these are influenced by existing Social Protection mechanisms for the elderly. The study was cross-sectional, with descriptive and analytical components. The study involved a household survey and anthropometric measurements of elderly persons. Focus group discussions were also conducted. A total of 337 (107 males, 123 females) elderly persons, obtained through random sampling, were interviewed during the survey. Social protection instruments were categorized into family, community and monthly pension. The data obtained was analyzed using SPSS. Difference in outcome variables was tested at p=O.OS. A greater proportion of the study population was females and the mean age was 71 years. The number of elderly persons was 462 with a mean of 1.4 elderly persons per household. Out of the 337 elderly persons interviewed 68.2% reported receiving some form of social protection mainly from family. Family support was however irregular and inadequate. Only 14.8% of the subjects received a monthly pension. Overall, 38.1% of the subjects were underweight (BMI<18.S). Males were significantly more severely underweight than females (17.2% and 7.7% respectively). Majority of the households (84.2%) had a Dietary Diversity Score of more than 4 indicating that most households had economic access to a varied diet. Households with elderly persons with social protection were 0.5 times less likely to have a low Dietary Diversity Score (1 - 4 food groups) compared to those without any form of social protection (OR: 0.5, 95% C.l. 0.3 - 0.9) and were 0.7 times less likely to be underweight (OR: 0.7,95% c.1. 0.4 - 1.4). The study concludes that Social Protection is an important tool in improving the nutritional status and general wellbeing of the elderly. Recommendations made include long term planning of social welfare provision for the elderly in Kenya as well as assessment of the status of elderly persons in other parts of the country.