Features — 09 February 2016 — by Albert J. Ciego
LIFE steps in to assist senior citizens of the Southside

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Feb. 2, 2016–Senior citizens age 61 years and up living in Belize City’s Southside will now benefit from the efforts of a new organization called L.I.F.E. (Living Independently in Full Existence), which is founded and headed by Sister Carlette Gentle, and headquartered on 11 Casuarina Street, Belize City.

The aim of the organization is, by means of a referral mechanism, to help seniors of the area in five vital areas that will impact their health and well-being. The five forms of assistance these seniors will receive are food assistance, social support, housing assistance, medical care, and assistance with transportation.

Gentle told Amandala that seniors who need to be fed daily and do not have the means to find food will be linked to food programs or food sources like the Mercy Kitchen Food on Wheels Program, that feeds the elderly and shut-ins at their homes daily.

In the areas of social support and medical care, the seniors are visited at their homes, and they are taken for their medical appointments or checkups. Also, monthly, they are brought together for an evening of fun and socializing.

They are transported by means of a specialized van donated to the organization to transport the handicapped. It is equipped with a mechanism to lift wheelchairs with the handicapped person sitting on it, and to place it in the van and transport the handicapped person in a comfortable seated position in the chair. The ride only costs a dollar, we were told.

Gentle said that the organization also helps those seniors who want minor repairs done on their homes, but those in need of a house are linked to Hand in Hand Ministries or other agencies that can help them with a house.

In a sit-down with Amandala yesterday, Sister Gentle reported that the organization was formed to work with relevant agencies to enhance the lives of senior citizens living either alone or with their families on the Southside, and through its collaborative efforts with other agencies the organization will impact the health and wellbeing of the senior citizens.

An assessment was made and people 60 and over were identified and their needs categorized and the organization is now making efforts to assist these ones. There is a membership fee of $2 monthly.

Gentle said that it is very costly to operate the initiative, and they must fundraise frequently to meet the expenses. An effort has been made to collaborate with four high schools to raise funds for the cause.

This, she said, can be done by conducting a “Rags Day” at the school once per week, when the students do not wear the school uniform and pay $1 for not doing so, and the money collected from the students is donated to the organization.

Gentle said that there has been a willingness on the part of the students to participate. Some students have already presented some canned food to give to the elderly. Also, the students are being encouraged to form a bond with the elderly.

Gentle said that the youths will share their modern-day experiences, and the senior citizens will share their experiences in the yester-years.

She said that together with the students and the other agencies, they can uplift and enhance the lives of the elderly on Belize City’s Southside.

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