Dubai: Friends reunite after 50 years as daycare centre opens for seniors

Elder Square has witnessed a transformative change in participants' attitudes and behaviours from the day they arrive at the centre


Waad Barakat

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Published: Thu 23 May 2024, 8:36 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 May 2024, 10:27 PM

Inspired by the experience of her 85-year-old relative's declining physical and mental health while being confined to his home in Dubai, Tamara Binladin opened Elder Square in Jumeirah. Little did she know that she would not only provide care to seniors, but also be instrumental in reuniting two friends who had not met in 50 years.

"There were two friends who had not seen each other for 50 years," Tamara recalled. "They met here at Elder Square, and it was just the most beautiful thing to see." The two seniors, who had grown up together but lost touch over the decades, were overjoyed to cross paths again at the daycare centre. Tamara described the emotional scene, saying, "They were just holding each other, crying, laughing. It was wonderful to witness."

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Tamara's inspiration

"Elder Square just came as an inspiration," explained Tamara Binladin, the founder of the centre, which opened its doors in March. "My mother's uncle from Brazil visited Dubai. He's an older man. At the time he was 86, and he was active, his mind was sharp, and his body was well. But in the three months he was here, I could see his health decline. Even at home, you could see he just started sleeping more, zoning out more, even moving from the dining table to the coffee table required more effort."

The Saudi expat realised that her uncle's healthy lifestyle was taken away due to a lack of social engagement and activities. "He had nowhere to go and walk around daily. His mind wasn't engaged, his body wasn't engaged, his social life was zero - non-existent," she told Khaleej Times.

Elder Square has welcomed residents across a wide range of ages and nationalities, including some in their late 80s and even a 103-year-old visitor. Rather than being a traditional nursing home, Elder Square is structured as a daycare centre for seniors.

Vibrant community for seniors

The centre focuses on creating a vibrant community for seniors, rather than just providing medical services. "We're not taking them out of their homes, we're just giving them something to do. So, instead of being lonely and bored at home, you're here meeting people."

From arts and crafts, brain games, and balloon volleyball to dancing and karaoke. The centre allows senior Dubai residents to participate in activities that align with their preferences and abilities.

Plans to expand

With a capacity to accommodate up to 40 people at one time, it currently has many participants waiting to join its third round. And has plans to expand its offerings by creating interest groups where residents can connect and bond over shared hobbies, such as gardening or reading clubs.

A medical centre on-site offers services such as physiotherapy, psychology and nutrition. “Our physiotherapist leads the morning yoga session, and our psychologist leads the memory and storytelling at the moment," she explained. This integrated approach to care addresses elderly residents' overall needs.

Elder Square has observed a remarkable shift in senior participants' energy and mood since its inception. Tamara points out, the stereotypical view of the elderly as "grumpy" is often a product of their isolation and lack of stimulation at home.

"Yes, you will be grumpy if you're isolated at home, your joints hurt because you're not moving and your mind is not [critically] thinking about anything," Tamara said.

However, Elder Square has witnessed a transformative change in participants' attitudes and behaviours from the first day they arrive at the centre. The staff has observed that elderly residents have become very excited about coming to the centre. Some eagerly wake up their caregivers, exclaiming, "You need to take me to Elder Square, I can't be late. I have my morning stretching."


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