Why not a three-tier complex for the elderly?

Dear Editor,

I refer to the letter by Mr Malcolm Clarke of March 13, 2009 in SN captioned ‘Guyana needs nursing homes.’ I agree totally with Mr Clarke and would like to expand on his idea. From a practical point of view, which I shall explain later in this letter, I recommend a three-tier integrated complex for the elderly. Part of it will cater for the elderly who can still cope with some of the routine household functions such as light cooking, light cleaning and caring for themselves. Each such dedicated block within the complex would have its own warden who will undertake the heavier tasks, assist with minimal repairs and maintenance as well as respond as a conduit when residents press an alarm bell requiring urgent help. In some countries they call this ‘warden assisted living’ or simply ‘assisted living.’

A middle part of the complex would operate as a rest home. It would have a central kitchen and one or more dining rooms catering for the dietary needs of the elderly. It would be staffed with kitchen personnel and servers. This intermediate section would also be staffed by qualified nurses and care assistants. The number of qualified nurses would be based on the number of rest home residents.

A third section of the integrated establishment would be a nursing home. It would provide 24-hour nursing care in addition to the functions of the rest home section mentioned above.

The three-tier complex would have a clutch of consultant doctors and would also be visited regularly by a variety of practitioners including hair stylists, manicurists, physiotherapists, other therapists, religious practitioners and of course a variety of entertainers.

The architecture of the complex is important as it would be designed with the elderly in mind and able to adequately accommodate the physically and visually impaired. Wide corridors, ramps and lifts/elevators would be the order of the day along with special assisted baths and shower rooms which recline and swivel so that the elderly use the minimum of physical effort to position themselves according to their pleasure and preference. None of this need be guesswork as there are many such establishments in Spain, Florida and the warmer UK townships to copy from. Unlike these countries Guyana has abundant space to properly site such a complex for the elderly. Three to five acres would allow for an elegantly designed complex with its own green areas for the elderly residents to enjoy managing a small kitchen or flower garden or simply to enjoy the outdoors and abundant fresh air in a secure environment.

A complex such as this would probably be suited to a private/public partnership. Government could invest the land area and a private sector group invest in the construction and management of the complex. Suitable virgin sites would include part of the land mass west of the National Cultural Centre and contiguous to Cuffy Square on Homestretch Avenue, or the area behind the Botanical Gardens East of Sheriff Street/Mandela Avenue next to the Chinese embassy or the piece of land juxtaposed between Camp Ayanganna and the National Park. As far as partially built-up sites are concerned, a few acres within the boundaries of the National Park could be converted for use as a complex for the elderly as could part of the Promenade Gardens which only my mother and I seem to visit these days.

Relevant surveys done in other countries firmly indicate that, contrary to a popular school of thought, the elderly do not want to be put out to pasture in some remote, desolate location outside the capital city.

Apparently the elderly thrive on seeing and interacting with people of all ages, particularly children. They simply love to observe children at play or just ‘hanging out’ as they say.

The advantage of a three-tier complex as opposed to a mere nursing home is that residents can enter the system at an earlier age, say, in their late sixties/early seventies and remain there for a long period even as their health deteriorates.

This integration of the elderly of all ages permits longer friendships and healthier interpersonal relationships − it extends life itself. At a two-tier complex that I owned in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, at least four such friendships evolved over years and blossomed into marriage. In one instance both residents were in their mid-eighties. So there!

Yours faithfully,
F. Hamley Case

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