Already 24 years have passed since the birth of The Golden Years Day Centre in London, a social centre to help the elderly. After more than a decade of fighting, this association is in danger of disappearing if it doesn´t quickly find some new offices, given that the ones they have been occupying for the last 13 years are set to be demolished.
Two years ago, Amada Silva, a Chilean woman who has been living in the UK since 1976 and who is at the head of this initiative based in Lambeth (South-West London), received the news that the building that they were now occupying in Cancell Road was going to be demolished. The complex was built during the 1950s with cheap materials, one of which being asbestos, a product toxic to human beings comprised of various minerals and that can cause respiratory and other illnesses. All of the residents received a letter from the Council in which the future of the building was explained and they started to move out bit by bit. Presently, the only residents occupying the building are the Golden Years Day Centre and one family.
Since the news came to light, and facing this panorama, the centre has been trying to find an alternative location, but as Amada Silva states, “none of the places we have been offered provide the necessary conditions in which to house elderly people.”
The opinions offered until now present a lack of infrastructure and are not suitably equipped with the necessary basic services that these elderly people need. As Amada explains, “some didn’t have an emergency exit or weren’t suitable for wheelchair use.” “In one of the places they asked us as a condition to install and uninstall all of our computers and other equipment every day,” Amada points out. The only place that has not presented any such deficiencies had a rent price that the members couldn’t meet.
On top of the already mentioned asbestos problem, in recent times the centre itself and the building in which it is located, has become exposed. Due to the abandonment of the area, criminal acts have proliferated and the centre has suffered various burglary attempts. Furthermore, the police have become aware of an abandoned department next to the club used for sex acts and they have found knives and other hand weapons abandoned near to the Golden Years Centre.
With these premises, Amada asks that her attempts to find a new residence don’t fall on deaf ears. “From here we celebrate a daily service open to any elderly person who wants to come; we offer advice, English classes, music, painting and sewing and other activities to help the mental health of elderly people and to help them gain confidence in themselves,” she states. At the beginning this Project received help from “Trust for London” and Amada considers that “much has been achieved thanks to the first help we were given”. “Here the people feel at home,” she adds.
Many elderly people, even though they live with their families, need company and to develop what they have inside them.” “The shame is that after all we have achieved we are going to lose it all and that so many people are going to be left with nowhere to go” she concludes.
In fact, without a rapid solution, someone who helps quickly without waiting the long winded bureaucratic process, acting without making empty promises that fail to bear fruit, this space, this organisation that is available in actions and words to continue attending to the elderly Latin American people, will have to disappear. First in body– its space – and then in practice.
(Translated by Sandra Young – firstname.lastname@example.org)