Sharjah volunteers bring smile to faces of elderly

Volunteers and students from across Sharjah and beyond are bringing laughter into the lives of senior citizens.

Friendships are forged across the generations in Sharjah as student volunteer Ali Al Baluoshi gets to know Abduljalil Ghanem. For the senior citizens, the visits bring companionship and conversation while the young enjoy perspectives on their nation’s past. Victor Besa for The National.
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SHARJAH // Volunteers and students from across Sharjah and beyond are bringing laughter into the lives of senior citizens.

The volunteers, some from as far afield as Al Ain, have been visiting elderly Emiratis living at a senior citizens’ home in Al Qaraen each week to spend time with them.

Sharjah Social Services Department launched the visits as the majority of the residents do not have immediate family members who call regularly.

The volunteers – some as young as three years old – sing traditional songs and quiz each other with old Emirati riddles that the elderly residents teach them.

Many visitors take tea and sweets while talking and sharing stories of fishing, hunting and pearl diving with the residents, recounting the Emirati way of life in days past.

Mohammed Abbas, who was born in 1942, has been living at the seniors’ home for seven years.

“When they come in, they bring in their energy, loud voices and laughter, they bring life to the place, and there is nothing more that we enjoy here more than their visits,” said the 74-year-old.

“Some of them visit us several times, and we have made friends with them. We talk about their news and ours, what is going on their lives and we provide them with advice and share our stories.

“Sometimes we give them old Emirati riddles to solve, and they take a lot of time trying to figure it out, without luck, before we share the answer with them.”

Forty-one Emiratis live at the seniors home, among them 18 women, some of whom were undergoing treatment and physical therapy.

The centre takes residents to aquariums, museums and malls in Dubai and Sharjah, the seniors said that while they enjoy the outings, time with the students and volunteers is their favourite.

Alia Al Shamsi, an employee at Sharjah Immigration, has been volunteering for four years.

“Some of them need just a little nudge and a couple of sweet words and they will open up to you. They share their stories and, the more you interact with them, the more they open up to you,” said the 31-year-old Emirati.

“We need to let them know that they are not forgotten, that we are their family and their children, and that we love and care for them so much.”

Sabir Ibrahim, who has lived in the home for five years, said he enjoyed laughter and music as the children played musical chairs.

“What better sound to hear than children’s laughter? The way they run around the chairs and seeing them dance the traditional Yola dance” said the 81-year-old.

“Some of us have families. However, they don’t visit us much – some don’t visit at all. The students’ visits to the centre make up for it.”

Ali Al Baloushi drove from Al Ain to join the residents.

“They love to talk to us, and you feel that they enjoy spending time with you. It is a great way to be able to change their daily routine,” said the 20-year-old.

While the centre homes Emiratis aged 60 or more, there were a few exceptions.

Tariq Rashid, 58, has called the place home for a year and he agreed that the visits were a highlight. “During summer, the number of visitors intensifies, and that is very much needed, while during the academic year, pupils from various schools in Sharjah visit, as well as university students,” he said.

For more information, call the home on 065078740.