By Natalia Socarras
Alicante, oh how I love you. However, I fell in love with you even more after visiting your center for older adults, el Centro Especializado de Atención A Los Mayores. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for older adults, especially those who are at risk for loneliness and poor health care, but I have always viewed older adults in the image we tend to have of them in the United States, which is when they are already far gone in their physical and mental health. Thus, when choosing to study social work for the purpose of working with the elderly, I had in my mind that I would be working with individuals that may no longer be functioning cognitively and physically at the same level as they would have in their younger years.
I was surprised to find that the center for older adults was not in fact a “daycare” for adults who were already struggling with the challenges that come with old age, such as we stereotypically imagine, but that the center functioned as a center for preventative activities. To expound, the way this center works, is that it looks as the individual holistically and engages them in activities that would help them specifically with their daily life and social engagements. The point is to offer activities which may help prevent memory loss and loss of physical and social functioning. I found this absolutely fascinating because I have yet to hear of anything like this in the United States. While I am sure that there are facilities and programs that exist in the United States, it seems that the major type of elderly facility structure is that for those who are already needing full-time care. This center is also publically funded and serves more than 1,000 individuals each day.
After our visit to the center today, I could not help but wish that our time in Alicante were longer so that I could visit the center again to learn more about its history and functioning. I am also interested to learn about other preventative programs for the elderly throughout the country of Spain. I will definitely be doing more research on this type of facility and see if it has evidence-based outcomes, because if so this would be an amazing concept to bring into the United States!