The slap of dominoes on the rickety wooden table echoes around the courtyard of the Mother Teresa Senior Home on the outskirts of Caracas.
The residents are dotted around soaking up the sun, most on their own and in silence, contemplating a retirement that falls well short of being their “golden years.”
Venezuela is not a good place in which to grow old.
Life is tough for all Venezuelans and the economic catastrophe that has befallen the country is the reason. Inflation is mind-boggling — more than a million percent — food is in short supply and, if found, difficult for most to afford.
At least 85% of medicines are in scarce supply, according to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela. If it’s an economy in freefall, the landing is hardest for the elderly.
Baudilio Vega and his volunteer staff do their best to feed and house the nearly 80 people here, the oldest, 84-year-old Carmen Cecelia. He shows us around spartan facilities, a bunk bed and small locker for each resident. Their possessions are few — they don’t need big lockers.
“If we didn’t have this place how many of these people would be on the streets or dead?”
Baudilio Vega says. “Thank God here they are alive. It’s not five-star but at least they survive.”
It’s a heartbreaking fact that many elderly in Venezuela are essentially given up by their families. They’re not unwanted — far from it — but are victims of a brutal choice: feed the children, or feed the grandparents.
We meet 74-year-old Victoria Madriz, a resident here for more than a decade. Her husband died, her daughter left the country for better opportunities and she moved to her brother’s home. Everyone soon realized there was simply no room or money to support her.
Read more at CNN.