The Elderly in Bolivia

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bolivia doesn't have nursing homes.

In the eight years since I first came to Bolivia, I have never heard of or seen a single nursing home or assisted living place. They just don't exist.

(Kind of like chai tea and chocolate chips.)

When I was studying housing at the University of MN, we talked a lot about housing for the elderly. With the aging baby boomer generation, the demand for assisted living is higher than ever. One of my professors in particular was just convinced that any students that dedicated their career to housing the elderly would pretty much have it made.

Well here in Bolivia things are a bit different. We don't have nursing homes or assisted living or any other kind of housing designed for elderly folks because we simply don't need it. Oh, there are elderly people here all right. I know more people that consider themselves my "grandparents" than I can count! But do you know where they live?

With their sons and daughters.
With their nephews and nieces.
With their grandchildren.

Parents in Bolivia spend their children's entire childhood providing for and nurturing them, and they are not about to be swept aside after that. Instead, they continue to live with their children, being cared for and provided for themselves.

Family is an incredibly important and integral part of Bolivian culture. It's one of the things that I love most about Bolivia. Family ties are stronger than anything else and are what hold people together in spite of things like poverty, illness, or aging.
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