On August 26, the National Senior Citizen's Day is commemorated in several countries around the world. We talked to Rosa Vallejos, Coordinator of the Integral Center for Elderly Care (CIAM) of Barranco, in Lima, Peru. In this interview for the 3Love Inc. blog, she tells us about the different activities they carry out for the benefit of the senior citizens, as well as the importance of physical, recreational and productive activities to improve their quality of life, well-being and self-esteem.
What kind of activities does the Integral Center for Elderly Care of Barranco organize for the benefit of the elderly?
In accordance with the Law for the Elderly, we have 24 workshops, on health, recreational and productive topics. Apart from that, we also have free services for all the residents of Barranco over 60 years old. We also offer outings, talks and trainings, we have strategic allies from private and public entities. Since a few months ago we have managed to decentralize the space a little and we have opened another center, where the management is located, and we have also offered workshops and services there.
Why is it important for senior citizens to be active at all times through physical and recreational activities?
First of all because it is an approved regulation and it is part of the rights of the elderly. Also, because we need to improve the quality of life of each of the senior citizens and promote their integration into society. So, through these workshops and services we help them to stay active. For example, they have formed five productive workshops, which are important. They feel alive, they feel that they are part of society and that they can serve society and the new generations. This is a support we have received since Law 30490 was created.
One of the activities that have been resumed after the pandemic is the Cinema at Home, which is the screening of a film at the CIAM auditorium. What can you tell us about this initiative?
I must thank our ally of many years, the Lions Club of Barranco, since we have been doing the Cinema at Home with them. This activity is very important for them as recreation and also as a message, because we have a discussion after the film and we always try to make sure that the film carries a positive message. And it has been very successful. So we hope to continue working on this activity, which is not only for the benefit of the elderly, but also for their families, who often come with them as companions.
Working constantly in the service of senior citizens, what would you say is the main learning that society can get from them?
Actually, there is a lot to learn from them. First because of the experience, because of the years they have. One of the most important things is to learn that they are still useful to society, that they are important. Many of them come with problems of depression or abandonment at home, family problems and problems of society itself, which sometimes does not take them into account. We are proud to say that we are doing a good job for the benefit of the elderly. So what we have to do is to continue working with the neighbors and their families, through talks or conversations, so that they see that the elderly are important. As a senior citizen told me: “Senior citizens are alive until the day they die”. And in reality, here they feel important.
What do senior citizens miss most at this stage of their lives?
We always celebrate the birthdays of the month for all the users of the two locations. When I talk to them, for example, they miss their music and their walks around the district. Since we started these celebrations, we have created a special theme. For example, in August, for the National Senior Citizen's Day, we decided to inaugurate this week of activities with a theme party, a disco party with music from the 1970s. They never imagined being able to come and find a disco in a place where they normally come to their workshops. This party started at 6:00 pm, the place was full and it also occurred to us that they could come wearing the clothes of that era. Many of them told us that they felt like they were in their best times, dancing to the disco and salsa music of that era. As a result of that we have started to continue working on what they miss. For example, next month we are going to do Nights of remembrance, with ballads. We also have a peña (a party with Peruvian Creole music - translator's note), which is something they longed for, since they cannot go to a peña because sometimes they depend a lot on their relatives. The peña has been created by themselves and they can enjoy it once a month. So here we try to do those things that they miss the most. On the family side, many of them have depression or suffer from abandonment, so we have begun to work more strongly with Inabif, with the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, with the Lions Club and with some other entities that have to do with the elderly, to give more potential to relatives and neighbors and a better treatment to the elderly. It is very important that their self-esteem rises again, because currently we have approximately 40% of older adults who come with this problem of family abandonment, even though they live with their family, but they feel lonely at home. So this space has become their second home. I have them here from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Saturdays all morning.
National Senior Citizen's Day is approaching. What message would you give to children, young people and adults about the change that society must make regarding the treatment of the elderly?
I am also a senior citizen and I would tell them that one way to respect those who gave them everything in their best times is to treat them well, even if it is just giving them a caress or saying “I love you”, you don't know what that means to a senior citizen. For example, I would ask for more respect for the elderly when they are in public transportation and there is a person over 60 years old, but the younger ones are not even able to stand up to give them the seat. Car drivers are also not able to stop to let senior citizens pass. So I think that our society must change and give a better treatment to those who gave everything in their prime and thanks to them have also had a good upbringing or values that unfortunately little by little have been lost. I believe that a positive message should be given and a request for help so that greater importance can be given to the elderly and that instead of leaving them aside as we unfortunately do here, it should be like in more developed countries, where they are given work and cognitive stimulation, which is very important so that they can feel that they are still useful to society.