Conducting research with African elderly persons: Is their vulnerability a concern to researchers?
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The African elderly population is currently estimated to be slightly over 38 million. In order to provide best practice and quality management strategies, health care professionals need to conduct research that can assist in ameliorating age specific conditions and improve the quality of life of elderly persons. However, risks abound when studying elderly persons. They may suffer from deteriorating physical and or psychological conditions associated with the ageing process raising concerns of vulnerability with their participation in any research contentious. The increase in social research conducted as a result of HIV/AIDS raises further concerns about the ethics of conducting research on elderly African persons with regards to issues of autonomy and informed consent. This paper examines the ethics and the notion of vulnerability of African elderly persons within the context of research. A literature review on the vulnerability of elderly persons and considerations for research provided the analysed data for this paper. Access to the database were mainly via EBSCO (www.ebsco.com) containing electronic databases useful in an academic setting for finding and accessing articles in health and health related academic journals, repositories and archived reports. Findings show African elderly persons are a vulnerable population and specific strategies and the implications for ethics are provided for use when conducting research on the elderly population.