Getting old is hard to do

It’s hard everywhere in the world, but it is brutal in Aruba according to Lia de Jongh, a woman I met while exercising, as we are determined to maintain our agility, flexibility, and full range of motion.

She is an elderly care specialist, a professional with a big heart, who would like to help make a difference in Aruba, talking about an unpopular subject.

In April I attended the second edition of the National Forum for Senior Citizens and understood there are tries to bring the issue into focus. We have a resolute minister, and he has started programs, designed to alleviate some of the discomforts affecting our elderly population.

So, what are the elderly suffering from: Living on a small, fixed income, often just dirt poor, they experience loneliness, isolation, feeling left out, losing physical strength and balance, dealing with medical issues and the administration of medicine, hampered by disability, loss of memory, and painfully dependence on others for help, with even the littlest things.

They used to call the years after retirement the Golden Years, in Aruba’s case, this is ironic.

The country needs to do more for the elderly, says Lia. But she is not just talking about the government, she means employers, civic society, and individual family members, that are jointly responsible for the quality of life of seniors, because our population is aging — 26% of our people are 60+, 18% are 65+ and 4% are 80+, according to CBS, December 31st, 2023, and most of them suffer from high blood pressure.

With over 1,000 elderly citizens in institutions, government owned and private homes, Lia introduced me to the Wrong Bed term. Elderly find themselves in hospital beds, over long periods, because of a shortage of suitable facilities catering to their specific needs. And while general care at government owned facilities is good, the wait list is long, and the privately owned senior homes are run unsupervised, on shoe-string budgets, with under-qualified staffers.

Lia sees the faults of the system, aiming to cure instead of working on prevention. We wait too long to tackle issues, until it is too late, she says, we need to be more preemptive, plan better, look far into the future and talk more about the realities we see down the road.

One of the programs started by the ministry of Elderly Affairs is Pasadia, a network of day care facilities, planned to open in each barrio, where elderly can spend the hours of the day socializing, doing arts and crafts, exercising, eating together, talking, and still being active and relevant.

An article in the media reported Cas Marie, Savaneta, a senior citizen center, was opening a second location, Cas di Mama Ties, in Santa Cruz, where seniors can be dropped off for a few hours of activity, every day.

Research has proven that positive social interactions reduce health care bills and improve life-satisfaction with seniors, so Cas di Mama Ties will improve the quality of life for residents on Santa Cruz in their Golden Years.

Last Week FCCA, Fundacion Cas Pa Comunidad Arubano, inaugurated a complex of small apartments where elderly may live on their own, in community, Blenchi Residence, in 48 one-bedroom apartments, accepting people 55+. Five more complexes are in the pipeline, to be built in Savaneta, Cunucu Abou, Paradera – Santa Filomena, Avicena straat, and Jaburibary


To conclude, a quote from the National Forum for Senior Citizens should read it carefully and assimilate its message: Healthy older people are able to contribute substantially to the production of social and economic value in our societies. Wasting their cognitive skills is not only detrimental for their own mental and physical health and well-being, but also missed opportunity for the community. Quoted from a Green Paper on Ageing: Fostering solidarity and responsibility between generations.

Aruba must be more aware of the elderly cycle of life, prompt decisive action towards the development of more effective senior care solutions, enhance community support, healthcare systems, and educational opportunities for young people to enter care professions.

The forum took a holistic view of our challenges, recommending a five-pronged approach, all five aspects equally important: Improve staff, get stuff, dedicate space, introduce systems, and increaser social support, the five S that must be promoted simultaneously to see success.







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June 03, 2024
Rona Coster