90 years of making the aged feel at home

By Natasha Fernandopulle

In the evening of her life, she spends her day weaving chairs and doing little chores. “I used to work at a store in Moratuwa and I came to this home 10 years ago,” says B. Seelawathi (81), a resident at the Moratuwa Social Services Society Elders Home. “My husband used to live here with me but he passed away,” she says, adding, “My daughter and son come to visit me and I have grandchildren too… I like it here.”

The Moratuwa Social Services society was formed by the Holy Emmanuel Church Seniors Guild on July 26, 1919 with the aim of helping the poorest of the poor in the Moratuwa area. And it was on March 27, 1920 that the Society decided to open a Home for the Aged. At the time they had seven occupants. This year the home celebrates their 90th anniversary and they now look after 145 elders of which 101 are women and 44 are men.

“At the time the society decided to open this home a bad fever had spread in the Moratuwa area resulting in a number of deaths,” says Gladwin Fernando, President, Moratuwa Social Services Society.

The land on which the elders’ home was built was owned by the Holy Emmanuel Church but is now administered by the society. Mr. Fernando explains that the home is open to anyone from any religion, ethnicity or locality and says they hold monthly religious activities for the residents.

Most of the residents at the home are unmarried while others cannot live with their families due to various issues, such as lack of space. The oldest resident is 92-year-old Karunawathi Wijetunga.

K. Joslin Fernando (71) has been at the home since January 30, 2002. She has lived in Katukurunda in Moratuwa all her life. “Here at the home they look after me well and I like to make carpets and little flowers for the altar,” she says, adding, “I also made a sandakadapahana with cloth for a pirith ceremony even though I am Catholic.” Ms. Fernando had six children but only four are living.

The home also has a carpentry workshop where they mend their own tables and chairs. The home also runs a pre school – Sudharshana Pre-School, for children from low income families which is supported financially by the UK based organisation, Hope For Children.

A strict criteria is followed with regard to taking in elders. It starts with filling out an application form which has been recommended by the Grama sevaka as well as a religious leader in the area. The applications are then forwarded to the selection committee while in the last stage they are interviewed and then depending on the criteria set forth, are taken into the home.

The residents are given a balanced diet and the home is kept clean. Two doctors Dr. Upali De Mel and Dr. Shiromi Wijesinghe, visit the residents twice a month. The residents are allowed to seek either Western or Ayurvedic medication.

The home is granted Rs. 300 a month, per resident while the rest of the financial needs are borne by the society and by donors. “We are running under very tough circumstances and what’s toughest for us is to meet the bills for medicine,” says Mr. Fernando. With the help of a German organisation, they have been able to rent out a shopping complex in a building owned by the Home, and with the rent are able to pay their staff, but still it’s an uphill task.

You can help too

Those interested in helping the Moratuwa Elders’ Home can follow the ‘Adopt a Granny’ or the ‘Friends of Elders’ Home’ programmes.

The former as the name suggests allows one to assist an elder by giving them a minimum of Rs. 500 while the latter allows one to contribute any amount towards the home.

Donations in cash or kind are welcome towards the upkeep of the home which does a valuable service for elders in need of a safe haven.

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