The Expertise of the Elderly

Want to learn chess? How to play samba music on the drums? Some smooth Latin dance moves? Ideally, you go to the experts -- people who have been doing these things for years and years. Maria de Lourdes Braz knew the senior citizens at her Casa de Santa Ana were a tremendous resource for the youth growing up in the surrounding favela known as the City of God in Rio.

Today, Casa de Santa Ana is bustling with intergenerational activity, all while serving its original purpose – to tend to the needs of the aging residents of the City of God. A social worker by training, Braz had seen first-hand the mistreatment of senior citizens at state-run institutions in Brazil. She also knew family members in the impoverished favelas were struggling to care for their aging relatives while holding down a job and tending to other responsibilities.

Caring for an elderly family member is as significant a challenge for working families as caring for small children, but there tends to be a much greater political will and societal financial commitment to childcare. So Braz had a revolutionary thought: Why not “day care” for senior citizens?

That simple, novel way of framing the solution was a key to Maria’s success – funders responded. Founded in 1998, Casa de Santa Ana has been the daytime gathering place for hundreds of senior citizens, who pass their time fully engaged in not only intergenerational mentoring and socializing, but also participating in support groups, getting basic medical care, and enjoying delicious meals.

Perhaps most importantly, at the end of the day they go home to their families – where intergenerational bonds are especially precious.

What do you think?

Childcare remains, in much of the world, a higher priority for government and private funders than eldercare. If day care centers were open to both children and seniors do you think there would be more of a commitment to the idea of “day care” for aging citizens?

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