By Wendy Jane Carrel
Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, his wife, city dignitaries, employees, and approximately 150 seniors were present Sunday morning, April 19, as Cabrera inaugurated one of Cuenca’s special projects, the “first free public senior center” also known at El Hogar del Abuelos (Home of the Grandparents).
The center, located in the El Vergel neighborhood at Los Fresnos 2-87 y Alisos in a converted rental home, will serve as the model for eight other senior centers set for other neighborhoods. According to Mayor Cabrera, the city investment was $249,046. Donations of adult diapers, food supplies, and other items are in addition.
El Hogar opened to seniors March 26. Alicia Rodas, a geriatric nurse, is its coordinator. Rodas explained there is capacity for 40 older adults. The seniors who attend stay all day Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm. The seniors are dropped off in the morning and picked up in the afternoon by their families. There is no center van or other transportation. “The center is a blessing for many families who work,” stated Rodas.
Seniors must be mobile in order to participate in the program, according to Rodas. There is no wheelchair access and there are no ramps in the facility.
A small breakfast, full lunch, and an afternoon snack are prepared in the new kitchen. The days are filled with activities – music therapy, occupational therapy (crafts and painting), physical therapy, “bailoterapia” (dancing), yoga, movies, “caminatas” (walks) in the adjacent park and neighborhood, exercises, gardening, singing, and resting. Seniors take siestas on beds provided by the center, men in one room, women in another.
The center employs caregivers, a cook, and a physician who serves on certain days. Geriatric caregiver interns from the American College of Cuenca, also known as the Instituto Technologico Superior, are present each day as well.
A priest blessed each room and the grounds with holy water on Sunday.
Wendy Jane Carrel, M.A., is a Spanish-speaking North American. She has spent over two years traveling province to province in Ecuador (as well as in Chile and Mexico) researching senior care options. In her home state of California she served as a Senior Center Director for a city, Head of Information and Outreach for a County Office on Aging, Administrator in Assisted Living (including Alzheimer’s care), and a non-profit communications and grants officer. She offers guidance for North Americans who wish assistance negotiating the Ecuadorian health system, senior care options countrywide, end-of-life care, and disposition of remains. See www.WellnessShepherd.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org