On 12 October at the Antonian Charitable Society of Bethlehem, a new day centre for the elderly of the city was opened: the Saint Anthony Active Elderly Centre.
ATS pro Terra Sancta has once again lent its support to pensioners most in need in Bethlehem, thanks to the help of the Committee of the Italian Episcopal Conference, who co-financed the project At the roots of Christianity: the elderly protagonists of the history of Bethlehem. The main people to benefit from this project will be the inhabitants of the rest home and some families selected in collaboration with the Franciscan Social Service Office, which ATS pro Terra Sancta has been supporting since 2009. The Office meets the needs of the poorest families of Bethlehem.
The problem of abandonment of the elderly is unfortunately very serious in this already difficult reality. The centre, situated in the same place as the guest home, will be open three days a week, from the morning until the afternoon.
Furthermore, the purpose of the project is twofold: charitable and socio-cultural. Social workers prepare recreational activities for each day the centre is open, to encourage socialising and perhaps a laugh or two; a home primary care service for a group of elderly who live independently is being set up; and a healthy lunch is served at the Centre. With regard to the socio-cultural aspect, the project aims at building a “bridge” between the older and newer generations through storytelling and narratives by the elderly.
The Antonian Charitable Society has been present in the birthplace of Jesus for one hundred years. It is a non-profit organisation that serves the poor of the area, especially widows and non self-sufficient women. In 1942 the first rest home for widows, abandoned elderly women and those in desperate need was opened; it is now home to 28 women who enjoy a broad range of services (the Palestinian Authority offers no aid or services of any type to the elderly). Several families attended the inauguration and the day ended with a meal accompanied by Palestinian music.
This initiative is part of the “Bethlehem and elderly people in the Holy Land” project.