Menu Close

A Pioneer Setting and Maintaining High Standards for Elder Care in South Africa


Driven by compassion and purpose Sister Ilse Haasbroek, General Manager Care for Residentia, has been pursuing this labour of love for 37 years in elder care. Since childhood her fascination with nursing was evident when dolls were injected, put on IV infusions and nurses uniforms were preferred to the fashion of the day.  She was born to serve.  Despite the challenges elder care poses and the complexity thereof, it is still the crucible where nursing talent, skill, ability, and love are tested past its limits.  Elder care facilities are places where all fields of caring culminate into serving the resident ensuring the best quality of life.

Sister Ilse holds strong views regarding the dignity of humanity, whether young or old, able, or disabled, “The perception of being a lessor person once one is considered an ‘elder’, needs to change.  The 92-year-old is still the same being than when he/she was 42; perhaps with other priorities but still wanting to be regarded as valuable and worthy.  People don’t come to care facilities to wither away and wait for death, instead they are welcomed to celebrate life by engaging in activities; still playing the piano, laying the table, sorting socks, and enjoying life”.

She points out a truth that applies to us all, ‘There are three factors contributing to deterioration of not only the elderly but also of people in general:  loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. Eliminate these stumbling blocks preventing abundant living and life can be celebrated at any age. The ethos of Residentia is to celebrate life by engaging their residents in daily activities presented with love and dedication.’

In a time where South Africans are plagued by unemployment, Residentia has partnered with Solidarity education programmes for care givers to do their practical hours in Residentia facilities.  It is a mutually beneficial for everyone as the students experience the caring environment and the residents are surrounded by more caregivers who comfort them with great care.  This partnership addresses unemployment and provide an avenue for care givers to serve and earn a living.

She raises an interesting statistic, ‘We are being confronted by a pensioner’s market of three generations. Young professionals have emigrated by their thousands and often parents are left behind with no family left.  Who is left to care for them?  Not everyone can afford elder care facilities.  More than 12 000 people in South Africa are older than hundred years, their children are already 70 or 80, pensioners themselves, with children in their sixties. Who will care for who? 

Not discounting Government’s possible increased involvement and assistance, one has to acknowledge that hope and expectation of citizens and facilities alike have been exhausted in relying on and trusting in Government to acknowledge the huge need in high standard elder care.  They have the resources to address the need at the level it occurs.  Red tape, rules, and regulations for elder care facilities ‘are taking care of the problems on paper’ like dictating safe beds in facilities but their financial support is obviously and tragically absent, hence solutions that are coming from the community. NPOs and NPCs taking hands to preserve the lives of those who give life to us.

Cultures have changed. Traditionally, the black community has been looking after their elders, but even in this culture, young professionals are emigrating or have accustomed to a western culture and several black grandmothers and grandfathers have no place they can call home. That is a reality and immense challenges we are facing in elder care and need to address.

Resorting to Government grants and facilities seem the last option. Caregivers’ burnout and horrendous working conditions coupled with no essential medical materials necessary to care for the residents in Government facilities, adds to the challenges of elder care countrywide. Regardless of town or province. These situations however created much needed awareness of living and working conditions in these facilities and many of the volunteers that assisted during these crisis times, stayed on afterwards to comfort, visit, and contribute towards the resident’s wellbeing. When most people go home from work, or relax on weekends and public holidays, the 24/7 care doesn’t stop and must go on.

Our immediate need is volunteers from the community to give their time and presence visiting a grandmother or grandfather in the facilities.  We need people, resources we can turn to and say, help us be the change we all want to see in our society.  We need partners with likeminded goals to alleviate the burden. Care comes with cost.  Living essentials become almost unattainable for the average citizen, how much more for those who have nothing?

 No one is exempt from old age.  Let us now give the quality time, presence, and service in a way we hope to receive it when we enter the eighties’.

The sad reality of abandonment and abuse of the elderly and the covering up of the crime.  Unimaginable cruelty is discovered, and shameful practises exposed.  In many instances, SASSA grants are taken, and once proud and independent fathers and mothers are discarded like garbage, shunted, and dumped.  During home care visits, some are found in dilapidated caravans without electricity, water, or any form of ablutions.  Worst is the abuse by their own children in whose homes they are ‘cared’ for, sometimes being moved from child to child every two months.  Families need to be counselled and educated regarding caring for their own to avoid burnout and depression which often give way to aggression manifesting in abuse of their elderly parent/s.

Sister Ilse also drives a support group for families who have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.  Here they learn how to cope with the most destructive degenerative disease of our time.

The African saying, she fondly quotes, “When an elder dies, a library burns down” reminds us of the value of our grandfathers and grandmothers and their rich lives. Everyone has a story; one resident, originally from the Netherlands, was one of the builders constructing the Voortrekker monument, the other a member of the 1934 South African Olympic athletic team.

Sister Ilse Haasbroek has not only raised the standard of elder care but she is also maintaining the standard and offering solutions and restoration for the huge challenges we face in our country.

We wear age as garments of time.  Our frames become frail.  But the souls of our being remain authentic in the Creator’s mould.  In Him, we will live and move and have our being, whether we are sixteen, sixty or ninety-six.

Contact Unchain Our Children for Volunteering your time and presence at Residentia elder care facilities:

E-mail:  Mobile:  082 824 5629.

Contact Residentia



Telephone:  012 341 0416

Detail Residentia Information Brochure:


Leave a Reply