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Oct 1, 2015

Healthy Living Interacts With Older Persons at HelpAge Belize

October first is celebrated as International Day of Older Persons. The Global 2015 theme is “Sustainability and Age Inclusiveness in the Urban Environment.” One local organization that works daily to keep older persons included and engaged is Help Age Belize. There are Help Age Branches countrywide and tonight on Healthy Living, we stop in to find out more about this week’s celebration at the Belize City Branch.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

For the past seven years, retiree Elaine Clarke has volunteered her time with older persons in Belize. And for the last two years, she’s chaired the Belize City Branch of HelpAge Belize.

 

Elaine Clarke

Elaine Clarke, Chair, Help Age Belize City Branch

“I use to work at the hospital for over thirty-five years; I worked at the Ministry of Health and also the old hospital and at Karl Heusner. And I used to see how the old people suffered and how they were treated and I said, you know, maybe after I retire, I can go and make a difference. And that is how I asked to joined the program and that’s how I get here.”

 

The Belize City Branch of HelpAge has approximately one hundred and twenty-five older persons registered and of that number as many as a hundred are actively engaged in their day to day programs which ranges from games like Bingo, church services and exercise sessions.

 

Elaine Clarke

“Most people let them feel that they’re not good enough to be in the society because they are old—they can’t contribute anything—so they usually put them aside. This week, we try to tell them no; you are part of the population and you need to come and you are very important. And we stress that to them whenever they come at the HelpAge activities here, we let them know that they are important. We educate them on what is good for them; we try to lobby for good things for them. Right now we are trying to lobby for them when they go on the bus, at least the first two rows in the buses that they can occupy because they complain to us that when they get in the bus and the bus is full, nobody gives them a seat so sometimes they have to stand up all the way to maybe Hattieville or wherever they are going. So those are the kinds of things that we advocate for them. We want for them to be a part of the society and let them know that yes, we love them and not because they are old, we are going to put them aside.”

 

The lineup of activities for Senior Citizen’s week included a variety of fun activities from storytelling to meals on wheels to a spa day. But one activity included this year, painted a grim reality for the Belizean elderly. That activity was self defense.

 

Elaine Clarke

“All the time, you hear over the radio about these elder being  victims….you know people going into their places and taking advantage of them by taking their monies and sometimes rape them. So this afternoon, beside the wheels on meals, we have Mister Flowers who is in charge of the GSU come and give them self defense.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“Do you find that a lot of older people feel neglected?”

 

Elaine Clarke

“Oh yes. They say you know, I’m in the home all day, nobody come and visit me. My daughter works and sometimes she comes and looks at me and ask if I alright…yo get yo meal and go, but they don’t pay them much attention. And most of them that come here, they are begin neglected. Be nice to them on the streets…you see them sometimes wanting to cross the road, the drivers just move on and just leave them there; sometimes they are just inches from knocking them down. We got a lot of old people weh get knock down. They knock them down and if they would only be nice to them and let the population recognize that you are wanted, you are a part of us; we love you.  That is the way we can really move towards helping them.”

 

Chair of the Belize City HelpAge Branch says if you can’t make time to volunteer at the activity center or pay a visit, they have their own wish list for the group.

 

Elaine Clarke

“We’d like a bigger bus to bring more people because the little bus that we have cannot facilitate the amount of people. So sometimes we have to leave some and bring some and that is not nice because they want to come out. But the population can help by being nice to them, showing them how they are important to us.  And that because of them, we are here…. I think that would be a great help for them.”

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