Anderson Simfukwe

Older Persons versus Witchcraft vis-a-vis Dementia Under the Spark of Life Philosophy

By Anderson Simfukwe, Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias in Zambia (ADDIZ) 

With the world’s population ageing exponentially, older people world over will be and are victims of witchcraft accusations coupled with the impending Dementias that affect older people as they reach advanced age in life. This article is mainly in the African context which often accuses its older people of being witches and wizards.

In the African context there is an intersection of old age and witchcraft that needs urgent clarity and comprehension. The immoral and criminal behaviour continues to affect older people even subjective to uncouth and brutal murdering of innocent older people allegedly accused of practicing witchcraft. The litmus test employed to hypothetically arrive at witches and wizards is ancient and archaic, and not to be trusted in this age and era.

In Zambia, even in 2022, the number of older people murdered on witchcraft accusations continues to increase exponentially and these deaths are merely treated as statistics, even when the country has a Witchcraft Act Chapter 90 of the Laws of Zambia that incriminate perpetrators of such offences. The political will to incriminate such offenders is under public scrutiny as the judicial lens fails to set precedence on such cases.

Older people are mainly associated with the practicing of witchcraft due to the fact that as people age their mental capability is compromised due to various brain health conditions that include Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of Dementias. The witch finders target wealthy older men and women who are unable to defend themselves during interrogation. And dementia is at the centre of such witchcraft accusations and the witch finders take advantage of the people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders to accuse them of practicing witchcraft. The accused are subjected to all forms of abuse including brutal killing in cold blood.

The situation on the ground is worsening each and every day that passes as news break of murdered older people in the communities. Perpetrators are nowhere near the justice system to face prosecution as enshrined in the Witchcraft Law of Zambia. The pieces of legislation are enough to incriminate, however, there is no enforcement to that effect. The Law enforcement agencies are always quick to mention that perpetrators will be brought to account, but no such arrests and consequent prosecutions are reported. This scenario has aggravated the immoral and criminal behaviour further to higher levels.

It is in light of the above context that Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias In Zambia ADDIZ through its support groups dotted around the country continues to bring awareness to people on the need to demystify Dementia and understand that older age is not associated with witchcraft practicing as there is no empirical evidence to support such allegations. ADDIZ conducts awareness walks, Dementia Friends and Spark of Life Community Education Sessions to demystify the myth that older people are witches and wizards in the communities.

The Spark of Life Philosophy connects well with older African people living with dementia and ignites as well as uplifts the Spark of Life in older people. The Philosophy has proved to be an effective tool in uplifting the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders in diverse communities.

ADDIZ is hugely indebted to Dementia Care International for the support rendered to my colleague and registered nurse, Mary Mutambo and myself during the Spark of Life International Master Leadership Program in Perth WA. We appreciate the unique and practical skill set that we both acquired is paying dividends back home in Zambia. People are beginning to value and acknowledge older people’s contributions to their community, and are caring for them through the Spark of Life Philosophy. The Philosophy acts as a bridge to narrow the gaps in older persons care and support in all types of services, including in conventional and home-based care, as it holistically embraces all levels of care through its individualized and rehabilitative approach. For the past six years, ADDIZ has been employing the Spark of Life Philosophy which has been replicated in other sectors including health and education sectors. The Spark of Life Philosophy has sufficiently responded to and solved the unmet needs of older people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders in the Zambian communities.

Mary Mutumbo, Spark of Life Master Practitioner, supporting elders with dementia in rural Zambia