Fighting for the Dignity of Older Adults

By: Candy Cotero

The MAAN Association is an organization that dedicates itself to the support of women, adolescents, older adults and children. We are a self-sustainable organization, as we do not rely on any type of donor and operate through the work of volunteers. Throughout time, we have supported older adults, offering them protection and shelter, but it has been difficult as we do not have a center from which to operate. For this reason, we have joined efforts with different nursing homes to try to defend the seniors that we help. In different nursing homes, they are offered not only a place to live, but also care particular to the needs of older adults.

One of the nursing homes with which we have had the best experiences has been the Asilo de Ancianitas Santa Luisa de Marillac, as the old ladies are treated with respect, dignity and love, especially given that we often encounter older women in conditions of vulnerability. Our promise has always been to also support the nursing homes so that they take care of seniors, as they are often in need of medicine, food, diapers and other resources that allow them to offer seniors what they need.

In MAAN, we look out for the physical and psychological integrity of older adults, though at times some seniors that find themselves in situations of indigence refuse to go to nursing homes, and we try to respect their decision and offer them what they need to live better. We offer wheelchairs to seniors that have some form of motor disability, making it to their size and according to their special needs. We also support them with medicine, medical consultations, and food offered by volunteers. In the same way, we offer legal support to seniors whose own children violate their economic rights, mortgaging their homes without authorization or kicking them out onto the streets, no matter  if the law support seniors.

Photo: Monument to the elderly in Flores, Petén – Carlos Reis’s Flickr.

During our years of operation, we have seen with sadness how older adults are frequently attacked by their families, to many of whom it does not matter whether the seniors live or die. Often, older adults are seen as a source of income, and because of this their children frequently take their pensions (from those who have them) or force them into poverty to pay for their food. In other cases, seniors live in poverty because they do not have another way to survive, as they have been kicked out of their houses by their own children. Those who do not live in poverty make a living with tasks that take a lot of work and effort and for which they receive little renumeration, like recycling.

One of the cases that has impacted us the most is that of a disabled senior woman who, unable to move, was kept in bed by her family members in deplorable conditions. She was fed only with one pan dulce each day. Immediately, she was rescued and today doña Chusita, as she is lovingly called, recycles paper to pay for her food and dialysis treatments, though we try to offer her the best support possible. In MAAN we hope to continue to work to give a better life to people like doña Chusita, who have given much to the country but have been forgotten by their families and society in general.

Interested in volunteering with MAAN? Send an email to: volunteering@entremundos.org for more information.

Cover photo: Elderly people in Antigua Guatemala. – Alex Schwab’s Flickr.