The Vulnerabilities of Older Persons in Uganda: A Call for Systematic Change

‍Guest Author: Dibaba John
June 9, 2024

This article explores the multi-dimensional vulnerabilities faced by older persons in Uganda, who, despite their significant contributions to society, are often marginalized and exploited. Their challenges range from ageism to financial instability, exacerbated by an ineffective pension system and lack of awareness about their rights. The article also highlights the advocacy work carried out by organizations like Integrated Humanitarian Aid, which focus on education, healthcare, and social security for seniors. Ultimately, it argues for systemic changes to ensure the dignity and well-being of older persons in Uganda.


Facts and figures :

Total population: 45 million

Life expectancy at birth 65.9 (W- 64.9 & M – 60.7)

Retirement age – 60 for both men and women

Average pension - $88 limited to government officials or former formal workers

Replacement rate – 2/3 of salary

Pension coverage – 5% of the population (World bank)




Uganda is a landlocked country located in East Africa, bordered by Kenya to the east, South Sudan to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Rwanda to the southwest, and Tanzania to the south Asia of 2021, the estimated population was around 45 million, but this number is expected to have increased. The population is relatively young, with a median age of about 16-17 years.

In Uganda, older persons are the cornerstone of society, guarding traditions, resolving conflicts, and sustaining agricultural communities. However, their invaluable contributions are contrasted by increasing vulnerabilities, ranging from ageism to financial insecurity. With a lack of social security, they often find themselves targets for rights violations and age-related discrimination. Moreover, the situation is exacerbated by the youth’s actions that strip them of their ancestral land, plunging them further into poverty.

Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division

According to Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, ageism is prevalent and often accepted as part of growing old. Older people are often unaware of their rights, making them susceptible to neglect and elder abuse. Existing legal and policy frameworks do not adequately address these challenges, often due to cultural beliefs that normalize these rights violations.

The majority of older persons live in rural areas and work mainly in the agricultural sector. About 85% of them are involved in crop farming without any form of social security. Furthermore, they bear the responsibility of looking after orphans and other vulnerable children, often left by parents who have succumbed to HIV/AIDS.

The confluence of these factors results in severe financial instability, especially in rural areas, exacerbating the multidimensional experience of old age poverty.

Uganda has one of the highest poverty rates in the world and is, to a large extent, the explanation for the population situation of this African country. 24 per cent of Uganda's population earns less than $1 a day and practices primitive subsistence agriculture. In a country where the retirement age is 60, benefits are only accessible at 75. There is a government social program under the modality of Social Assistance for Empowerment (SAGE) grant that offers U$S 8 monthly to vulnerable elderly people (unemployed) from the age of 80+. On average, retirees receive two-thirds of their salary, about $88 monthly. However, financial guidance is lacking, and only 5% of the population receives a pension. This leaves most seniors incapable of meeting their basic needs, further marginalized by the general poverty afflicting 30.1% of Uganda’s population.

Organizations like Integrated Humanitarian Aid (IHA) are stepping up efforts to help seniors. Through advocacy, they aim for better educational opportunities and push for the abolition of the mandatory retirement age. IHA also focuses on healthcare accessibility, lobbying for the elimination of user fees specifically for older persons. IHA uses social media platforms to help seniors stay connected and informed through its 'Seniors Media Connect' program. The initiative provides older persons with a platform to engage with each other, as well as professionals like psychiatrists and social workers, for their wellbeing.

To summarize, the vulnerability of older persons in Uganda is a complex issue embedded in cultural norms, economic instability, and inadequate policy frameworks. Advocacy efforts by organizations like IHA are steps in the right direction but must be complemented by systemic changes. Comprehensive social security measures, better healthcare, and education will be integral to safeguarding the dignity and wellbeing of Uganda’s older population.

About Uganda :


· Population: As of 2021, the estimated population was around 45 million, but this number is expected to have increased. The population is relatively young, with a median age of about 16-17 years.

· Ethnic Groups: Uganda is ethnically diverse, with over 50 different ethnic groups. The largest groups include the Baganda, Basoga, and Banyankole.

· Languages: The official language is English, and Swahili is also widely spoken. There are also many indigenous languages like Luganda and Runyankole.

· Religion: The population is predominantly Christian, with a Muslim minority.

· Economy: Uganda's economy is primarily agrarian, with agriculture employing the majority of the population. The country is also rich in natural resources like copper, cobalt, and recently discovered oil reserves.

· Government: Uganda is a presidential republic, where the President is both the head of state and the head of government.

· Life Expectancy: Life expectancy has been improving but was around 63 years as of 2021.



1.Uganda ministry of gender, labour & social development 2020 report.

2. Measuring population ageing: bridging research and policy Expert Group Meeting, Bangkok,Thailand, 25–26 February 2019 This research is supported by a grant from theEuropean Research Council (ERC2012-AdG 323947-Re-Ageing)

3. Summary of the Report of the UNSecretary-General to the General Assembly resolution 65/182 of December 2010.

About the author: Dibaba John is a former investigative journalist whose main work is centered on reporting about refugees, flood affected community and seniors in East Africa. After reporting about the plights of the elderly for 10 years, Dibaba decided to found Integrated Humanitarian Aid, a local organization that supports age advocacy and offers social and livelihood support to the elderly in Uganda and South Sudan to increase longevity support in these two countries. Contact details:

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