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A special date with adopted grandmother
Every other Sunday for the past two years, attractive 22-year-old Esther Burrowes has been leaving her Chase Village home and going on a special date with someone in Maturita, Arima.
An assistant teacher at Carapichaima RC Primary School and a graduate of the University of Southern Caribbean, she looks forward to her date with this person she has grown to love, which she called an “indescribable” experience.
“Every other Sunday I go to see my adopted grandmother at the Datta Home for the Aged,” Burrowes said. She has adopted 70-year-old Celine as her grandmother whom she describes as energetic and fun with a beautiful smile and mischievous eyes. “I think she must have been very pretty back in her days.”
Burrowes asked the T&T Guardian to use a fictitious name for Celine since the home keeps residents’ identities private.
“She loves to sing. Sometimes, while we are talking, she would burst out singing or humming, mostly hymns. I think she is the most lively in the bunch. I just gravitated towards her.”
Celine has Alzheimer’s disease and forgets things from her past but said she has children, some abroad, and grandchildren, Burrowes said.
“I never saw any of them during the times I visited.”
Celine loves to tell stories about her past and every time Burrowes goes to see her, she tells a different one.
“One time she said she used to be a nurse. Another time she said she used to work in a printery. She said she used to travel a lot. She used to go Venezuela.”
One day, Celine plotted an escape from the home with another resident. And she tried to involve Burrowes in it.
“She was telling us to distract everybody so they could run outside. She got caught and couldn’t carry out the plan.” Burrowes said Celine likes to run away. “She likes to go out all about.
“Every time we are leaving she would say she is not living there, she is just visiting and she wants a drop by the bus route to go home in Arima.”
Celine said her birthday is this month and Burrowes is already making plans to celebrate it at the home. “She said she wants cake.” Burrowes and three of her friends, Sasha Bernard, Cryston Lewis and Justin Matthew go to the home every two weeks to spend time with the elderly there.
Adopt a Grandparent is the first project of their non-governmental organisation, Bridge to the Heart, formed three years ago to build and restore broken relationships between different groups in T&T, including the younger and older generations.
“It was founded by Sasha after she saw an elderly couple struggling in heavy rain with their groceries under one umbrella in Port-of-Spain and no one was helping them.
“Another time she saw an elderly man in a wheelchair stuck near a drain trying to get out. Again, no one was helping. “We wanted to make a difference.”
Burrowes said there was a huge gap between T&T’s younger and older generations. “I don’t think our generation gives much attention to the elderly.
“When you spend time with them you gain precious wisdom and knowledge. It’s an indescribable experience. It’s pretty much life-changing.
“When I first went, I didn’t think I would enjoy it but now I actually look forward to planning activities and visiting them.”
Burrowes said the experience had changed the way she related to her own grandmother.
“Before, I used to just visit my grandmother only when mummy was going. Now I go on my own and check up on her.
“Life is so short, I need to cherish those around, especially the elderly.”
Burrowes said each of her friends had adopted a grandparent at the home.
“But we spend time with all of them, listening to their stories, laughing with them, hugging them. There are others with Alzheimer’s.
“We carry food, cake, sweetbread for them. Their response is overwhelming. You could see it’s something they want.”
Burrowes said one elderly woman in her 80s always kept to herself and never mingled.
“She always stays in her room and the first time we went in to talk to her she used obscene language and ran us out.
“We said the next time we come we will bring flowers for her. She put the flowers on her table and from that day on always looked forward to us coming.
“We are slowly breaking down the walls,” she added.