Bringing Joy to our Senior Citizens this #Christmas

A day before Aiden was admitted to hospital, 2 November 2013, he, along with other Grade 2’s of our wonderful family school Cowan House Prep in Hilton (get them on Twitter @CowanHouseKZN) headed by by Chief Angel Annie Powell, (Gr2P) put together a “surprise visit” to Golden Pond Retirement Village in Howick.

Established in 1987 Golden Pond Retirement Village in Somerset Road in Hilton has grown and prospered. Everyone who visits falls in love with the quaint appeal and country atmosphere. Each sectional title dwelling has its own little garden. These are ideally sized, anything bigger would consume way too much energy in maintenance. Yet there is enough room to have some small fruit trees. Many of these little gardens are extremely lovely, a result of being lovingly tended.

For practical purposes and convenience there is a homely Care Centre which is managed by a friendly and kind nursing sister. This is a lovely place where residents can enjoy a secure lifestyle while being cared for with dignity and respect.

Source: Hilton Village

At first sight it seems rather lavish for a retirement home, and I wondered why we had chosen Golden Pond rather than say, Riverside, or Sunnyside, where residents are far less independent and rely more on government subsidies or payments from their families for even the smallest room.  Of course it makes sense to spread a little Christmas Cheer to any of our senior citizens, regardless of where they may be.  It seemed more likely to opt for a centre where there is less likelihood of the little extras, the comforts of home…

Here are a few pictures of what was a happy day.  Despite my misgivings at the choice of venue, what did hit home very clearly is that very often these dear old folk are living in their retirement centres, be it a rather lavish, high security centre with frail care and all the frills, or a room within a dormitory type facility, are lonely.  How often I wonder do we place our parents in retirement homes and then make the perfunctory once or twice a year visit?

The smiles of joy, tears of gratitude and laughter that emanated from these folks told me that once again Cowan House was spot on.   We were there to spread some joy.   We were there to tell our senior citizens that “we care about you, you are not forgotten.  We care, and we love you.  Happy Christmas.”  And so we did, armed with gift vouchers, mince pies and cookies, Santa’s little elves along with recorders and who sang and danced and played their beautiful (sometimes rather off-key) music.  What a touching, heartwarming and soul-searching morning it was.  After the activities we walked around the beautiful manicured gardens and had a picnic near the pond.   Truly beautiful, very peaceful.   And I can imagine, for some, very lonely.

Enjoy the images please of a day that brought happiness to so many.

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I did a small amount of research on statistics of retirees in South Africa and it comes as no surprise really that the situation is worsening annually.   Says CoverSA:

South Africans are facing a very real retirement crisis – 60% of South African pensioners interviewed as part of Sanlam’s Benchmark Retirement Survey do not have enough to live on and this already bleak figure is steadily worsening. Plus, 94 % of South Africans can’t maintain a decent standard of living during retirement.

Of these, 64% were forced to cut back on living expenses and 31% had to carry on working after the retirement age of 65. What’s more is that 29% of those pensioners also had debt. “The situation is dire,” says Brian Spanier-Marson, retirement expert and MD of Mr. Retirement, “and although it may not be something that you necessarily want to contemplate, especially if you’re a young person, the question of whether you are indeed saving enough for your retirement is crucial.”

These statistics are shocking, particularly because many of these retirees come from an environment where a company made provisions for them, based on the number of years of their service. What’s more, is that the present generation has it much better than the generation that is to follow, which due to the current recession (and accompanying low investment returns), are headed for a retirement train wreck.

Further to this “In South Africa, there is virtually no social safety net that will assist you when you are old and you need it, so it is crucial to adjust your savings accordingly while you still have the chance.”  Which then of course brings us to the ridiculously high unemployment level, and the various criteria based on race and gender (not qualifications) which could preclude an otherwise very active, very useful member of a specific trade from obtaining work.

While improving the sustainability of pension systems, these reforms have often left future retirees with a lower replacement level from first-pillar pensions than today’s retirees. This has placed the question of adequacy of retirement income firmly on the political agenda.

I think it is important to remember that we need to look to the future, with whatever means we have now, and plan as far as we are able to.  In the meantime where we are able to spread a little happiness and cheer to any community, let us be the first to do it!  That hour or two of your day can change an entire Christmas season for an entire community.   Just do it!

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