The Golden Girls of South Lebanon
By: Danny al-Amin
Published Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Early in the morning, the bus stops in front of Aziza Charafeddine’s home. She gets on, carrying her books, reminiscent of a young student returning to school.
Charafeddine is 82 years old. She is not going to school but to a seniors club founded by the al-Taybeh municipality in South Lebanon to provide care, entertainment and education for older women.
At this club for women over 70, Charafeddine has regained her social life.
She is meeting up with her neighbors again. She had stopped seeing them, she says, because of “physical weakness that deprived me of going around the town’s distant neighborhoods and houses.”
Now she has even gone back to teaching Quran and the Arabic language. She sits on a chair next to her peers and remembering her skills as an educator.
Zainab Kraiker (72) also rediscovered her joie de vivre the day she met with the town’s women for the first time after a long absence. Old age had prevented them from visiting each other.
Kraiker was surprised by the special care that the municipality is giving to elderly women. She is very happy with this new establishment that “brings us out of our isolation and allows us to meet up with the town’s elderly women again. We are also given valuable education in many areas, especially in health,” she says.
The club is not only a space for meeting, it also provides specialists in many areas who care for the elderly. For example, there is Amal Nasr, who is a physician specialized in nutrition. She volunteers to take care of the women.
“I follow up on their health and try to provide them with the appropriate diet plan. I have even benefited from their knowledge of medical herbs that grow in the fields,” she says.
Doha Ashour, who represents al-Ataa Association for Islamic Charity, helped to establish the club for elderly women after a study she conducted on the state of elderly women and their social, economic and health conditions.
She explains that the study helped determine “the best way to serve these elderly women and the result was this club that provides entertainment, educational and health services to these retirees, taking into account the experience of seniors clubs in Lebanon and abroad.”
“What benefits elderly women the most is entertainment at the club alongside physical and psychological health care,” Ashour insists.
According to the head of the club, Sabah Fatoni, “the social behavior of the elderly women started to change in a positive and noticeable way inside their homes. And the sports activities that we engage in improved their physical fitness.”
The most important part, she adds, is “their commitment to showing up at the club three days a week. Their numbers increase from time to time and the sense of familiarity and love between them has grown too.”
She was surprised by the women’s commitment to coming and joining in, “unlike the elderly men who preferred not to come to the club.”
The mayor of the town, Abbas Thiab, said that “a philanthropist from the town donated the land on which the municipality built the club and equipped it with beds, a TV, a hall for educational and sports activities, and a clinic. The municipality covers all possible needs, including medication.”
This seniors club is different from those where the elderly feel neglected, one woman says. In this one, there is entertainment, care and education. Most importantly, she says, she returns to her home at the end of the day and is content.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.