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How Covid-19 condemned the elderly to loneliness



Since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in mid-March this year, governments and international organisations have been unequivocal in their warnings that older persons face a significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract the disease.

As a result, young people were advised to limit visits to their ageing parents and grandparents to reduce the risk of infections.

Dr Moka Lantum, managing director CheckUps Medical Centre, Nairobi, says old people are vulnerable for a variety of reasons: They have low immunity. Some have pre-existing chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. These either expose them to a high viral load or weaken their ability to resist the torrential immune response that weakens vital organs.

“Protecting the elderly is an essential public health measure to curb the mortality associated with the virus,” said Dr Moka.

But this growing isolation of the elderly has spawned its own crisis. Most senior citizens are now battling with loneliness and others have been forced to look for activities to beat boredom brought by the pandemic.

“Though we have not witnessed a surge in deaths in the elderly, Covid-19 has taken a toll on elderly because of loneliness. Imagine going for all those months without going to church, attending any social gathering, not seeing their grandchildren, and some even afraid to go to hospital for follow up of pre-existing conditions. All these while they have been confined indoors. We have little measure of the inherent shift in mental health. Only time will tell. We must watch closely for early signs of depression among the elderly like never before,” adds Moka.

Experts say loneliness triggers a stress response that there is an imbalance in our so cial homeostasis. This biological phenomena has been associated with increased inflammation and a hyper activation of the immune system, which, according to experts, contributes to some of the chronic diseases that older adults are already more vulnerable to developing.

Although loneliness and social isolation can affect anyone regardless of age, the elderly are particularly vulnerable, especially under the current conditions.

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“Loneliness is the sense of suffering from being disconnected from other people. Loneliness is different from social isolation, which is simply not being around other people or not having close connections,” says Joseph Wanyeki Gatimu, founder Prolong Life Kenya, a non-governmental organisation that restores hope and dignity for the elderly.

Julia Gachambi, aged 81 years, from Rurii, Githurai 44, Kiambu county battled loneliness for a while, before she decided to venture into poultry farming.

It is now five months and she hasn’t set her eyes on any of her children. Some lost jobs due to the pandemic, others live far away from her and others are willing to come and visit, but they are fearing for her safety.

“I have nine children, but all of them fear that if they come home they will be exposing me to the disease. I have been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, thus a compromised immune system. All this time we have been communicating via mobile phone and I miss seeing them though I put my safety first,” she says.

Beating boredom Though she remains positive, she admits that the last six months have not been easy. She reveals that because of the social isolation, old memories have been haunting her to an extent of affecting her mental health.

According to her, many are the times she would lock herself in the house to cry without knowing the reason. Other times she would embark on a journey without knowing the destination and it used to take her neighbours effort to bring her back.

And after realising that all is not well, she decided to explore ways to keep her busy. This is how she started poultry farming, something she says has helped her beat the boredom and loneliness. With the help from her children, she bought about 20, one-month old chicks and that is how she started her farming venture.

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“With this project, I am always busy doing something. You will find me feeding the chicken most of the times. When not feeding them I collect leftover food from restaurant for them. With all these activities, I don’t have time to stay idle. This has really improved my mental health,” she says.

Another woman, Monica Wangeci, who is in her mid-90s and takes care of her grandchildren says that though her children haven’t abandoned her, she has been abandoned by the church and neighbours who she used to rely on.

Wangeci who lives in Kiangiciri slums, Githurai 44 used to receive gifts and donations from church and neighbours before Covid-19 struck, but

now the amount of help she is getting has reduced. Apart from that she has not been receiving visitors as she used to.

“The worst part is that the church has not been creating unique home service opportunity for me as they used to do before. Once in a while they used to conduct the mass here, but this hasn’t happened since coronavirus started. I hope now that the government has announced that people can attend church, things will go back to normal,” she says. And to ensure that her grandchildren don’t go hungry, she has started a vegetable farming project. Her grandchildren have been taking care of the farm.

“I receive money from my children and they come to see me often. I also have some rental houses something, which has helped me financially. With my grandchildren around me, I cannot complain about loneliness,” she adds.

Covid-19 has not only forced many family members to end visits to parents and grandparents at their homes; also even those living at home for the aged [care centres) have been affected.

Such centres have closed doors to visitors and for those who visit, they are not allowed to interact with their loved ones. Administrators of the centres have enforced stringent rules to control the spread of the virus.

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At Little Sisters of the Poor [Nyumba ya wazee) Kasarani, care givers are being accommodated at the centre to avoid daily commute that would put the elderly at risk of contracting the virus. And since the centre relies on donations, all donations are left at the reception to ensure minimal interaction.

“It has been hard for us to enforce some of the rules by the government. But we thank God we have managed and we hope all is going to be well,” says Sister Agnes Wachieni.

Other challenges Apart from loneliness, Covid-19 has amplified violence, abuse, and neglect of older people around the world, which was already on the rise, according to HelpAge International.

Wanyeki says the elderly are facing abuse not only by strangers, but also from family members who are entrusted in caring for them.

There have been media reports from across the country in which older

and vulnerable women and men have had their Sh2,000 monthly stipend from the government’s cash transfer programme stolen from them by family members including children, grandchildren and other relatives. Some of the perpetrators are reported to accompany these old people to the bank and take away the money on withdrawal “The elderly, as a vulnerable group, cannot get to where young people are scrambling for the little relief food available from the government or other organisations, especially in urban slums. It is shocking to note that those entrusted with the provisions for these poor elderly are actually stealing from them,” he says.

GACHAMBI 44 I have nine children, but all of them fear that if they come home, they will be exposing me to the disease. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, thus a compromised immune system.

As we mark International Day of Older Persons tomorrow, we look at how measures used to contain coronavirus such as lockdowns and limited visits affected this vulnerable group


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Walking in my father’s funny footsteps



Back in the 80s and early 90s when TV was black and white and KBC was the only local channel, the world of comedy was taking shape. A popular programme, dubbed Vioja Mahakamani based on a courtroom set-up where criminals would be prosecuted for various crimes was the platform. The actors’ witty lines and behaviour left many Kenyans in stitches.

Amongst these veteran comedians was the late Samuel Kimani Muya known by his stage name, Masanduku Arap Simit who entertained Kenyans with his funny Kalenjin accent. He featured with among others, the late Mzee Ojwang’ (Benson Wanjau), Gibson Kamau (Prosecutor),

Mama G aka Judge (Lucy Wangui).

Masanduku passed on in 1998 and was buried on August 7, 1998, coincidentally on the date when US Embassy terror attacks took place in the country. Popular stand-up comedian, Nathan Kimani aka JB Masanduku, his son was just nine years old.

Nathan Muya Kimani aka JB Masanduku lets us in on the life of his late dad and veteran comedian Samuel Kimani Muya aka Masanduku Arap Simit

Thousands of fans and big names in comedy as well as men and women of cloth such as Reverend Teresia Wairimu, JB Masinde, and Bishop Mark Kariuki all came to the funeral to pay their last respect. “I remember coming from Chi romo mortuary and there was a whole convoy of mourners behind us. I heard about the blast on news in the evening after the burial. I also remember watching Fayaz Qureshi on TV announcing the news of my father, terming him as a hero,” JB recalls.

JB has fond memories of his father during his childhood. Family man

He recalls how his father would go out of his way to create time out of his busy schedule just to take his children out every Saturday. “I remember one time he took me on a trip in the famous double decker buses. I had my first train experience with him. He once took me on a cruise ship from Coast to Zanzibar and it’s something that I will never forget. In as much as he was famous, he always placed family first,” JB says.

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Masanduku was a humorous guy on and off stage. It is this humour that attracted JB’s mother, Lucy Wangari who was a staff at KBC to him. She noticed him while acting and accepted to be his wife despite facing opposition from family members.

“My mother comes from a wealthy family and she was well educated up to Master’s level. My dad highest level was secondary education. Her family was against their marriage. They didn’t see a future with a comedian. But she ignored them and went ahead to marry my father,” he says.

The two love birds had three children and raised them in Umoja estate, Nairobi. JB has a younger brother, Daniel Kimani, who according to him, is the funnier one, only that he has stage fright and hasn’t gone public with his comedy. However, he pushes his brother to explore the talent and many others that he has such as deejaying and, Information

Technology. Still, JB is happy to carry his father’s mantle.

“Before I go for a show, I always call my brother for advise on what to do and ask him the current trends,” JB reveals.

It is in an effort to preserve his father’s legacy that pushed JB to fill in his father’s shoes. Though brilliant in his studies, JB’s parents, particularly his father, never desired him to be a comedian.

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JB passed his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam in 2002 scoring 438 out of 500 marks and emerged among the best pupils. Being an orphan by then, (He lost his mother four years after his dad died), he was admitted at Starehe Boys Centre where he also performed well under the custody of guardians. After his Form Four he went to Russia to pursue Civil engineering in 2008.

Father’s influence

After he came back, JB met one of the directors of Churchill Show at a party and asked him to make guests laugh. His unique sense of humour gave him an entry into the show in 2012. “Churchill told me that my father was one of the people who made comedy be what it is today. This was when the impact that my father had in the industry hit me,” JB notes.

He would end up taking the name JB meaning Junior Box (Masanduku Junior) to differentiate himself from his father who’s the senior Masanduku.

Though not practising his engineering profession, he sometimes meets people who need consultancy services and grants them free consultation.

JB says the memories of his father keep him sane when going through a rough patch in life. “I have done so many mistakes in life. But when all is said and done, what keeps me strong is that I keep asking myself, if my father was alive, would I be doing what I do? Would he be proud? This is the thought that always gets me back on track,” JB says.

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He adds: “A lot of times, people ask me who my mentor is. All I can say is that my mentor is my father, and he is dead.” Back in the day there was no social media, but what JB observed, particularly with his father is the fact that artistes were true to their craft and performed wholeheartedly regardless of the pay they received.

“For my dad, it wasn’t about money, but the connections he made. I have received a lot of favours thanks to him,” he adds.


• Samuel Kimani Muya aka Masanduku Arap Simit was born in Muranga in 1966 in a family of 13 children. His late father was given land in Eldoret by the late President Daniel arap Moi who was his friend.

• It was while living in Eldoretthat he learnt the Kalenjin’s way of life even adopting the name Masanduku Arap Simit in his stunts.

• He used to be a household comedian and resident MC in Eldoret in the 80s. He was then discovered by Vioja Mahakamanicrew who took him to Nairobi to perform. He slowly rose to become a household name in the country.

• In 1994, he began his company dubbed; Masanduku Entertainment troop, which offered live comedy performances in hotels, and at events, even offering entertainment during state functions. In addition, brands had began to approach him for endorsements.

• The late President Moi awarded him Moran of the Burning Spear in 1994.

His turning point was in 1994 when he got born again and spent most of his days and money evangelising. In 1997 he was named Godly Influencer of the Year.

For my dad, it wasn’t about money, but the connections he made. I have received a lot of favours thanks to him


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Ruth Matete beautifully glows in all-white baby bump shoot



Kenyan gospel artiste Ruth Matete might not be so far from gracing the delivery room after beautifully flaunting grown baby bump in a stunning maternity shoot.

The beauty who had kept her pregnancy with late husband, Belovedjohn Apewajoye, under wraps until she could no longer hide her bulging belly, has finally decided to show it off to the world.

Even though still morning her late husbands loss, the chocolate-skinned beauty went all in for a white affair. Rocking an off-shoulder, slim-fitting mermaid dress that she allowed to flow to the ground, creating what seems like a heavenly waterfall.

Pastor Ruth Matete looking all glammed-up

Crowning it with angel-like all-white wings attached to the back and extended above her head, like an angel about to take off from the ground.

Meanwhile, a dear Ms Matete looked down on her cutely bulging baby belly, with arms gorgeously wrapped around it and seemingly lost in thoughts.

Singer Ruth Matete beautifully rocks heavy baby bump

Before penning a moving letter to herself, asking to trust that her body would birth successfully because the collective power of women worldwide will be with her.

You are pregnant and you are powerful. You are bold and you are beautiful. Go forward in your boldness, in your beauty and in your contentedness,she adored.

Heavily expectant singer Ruth Matete

This saw fans splash love heart emojis across the comment section, wishing her nothing but Gods blessings and a beautiful journey ahead, as she preps to welcome her bouncing baby.

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To which she humbly responded;

Thank you all for the wonderful wishes and kind words. From your mouth to God’s ears😊 blessings❤️.


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