Challenging the Age Barriers

Humans are born with different talents, and these inborn talents are within us forever, no matter where we go, what we do, and how old we become. There are people who do not get the opportunities to express their talents; and there are also people who do not find or grab the opportunities they get in life to use the talents. Talents do not select wherein the person is born: whether it be in a rich mansion, or an apartment; whether it be in the palace or a roadside shanty dwelling, each and every person is born with a talent.

Eighty-Five year old Anahyde dos Santos Muniz also known as Dona Tuca, is a resident of a slum in the coastal city of Rio Janeiro, Brazil. Dona Tuca likes to paint pictures, do poetry, musical compositions, and act in theater and singing. But she has a limitation in doing these. Her barrier is her age. Yet, she tries hard to overcome her barrier and continue to engage in what she enjoys doing – poetry, theatre and music.

Brazil is facing the problem of population longevity. The numbers of the elderly population is growing fast in Brazil. The 1960s which had 6.4% of persons aged sixty-five and more, became 7.6% in 1980, and 8% 1991. Recent studies explain that by 2020 these numbers are expected to increase to 15% of the population.

The policies and systems of Brazil have been established to provide jobs for the younger, educated and trained people, and this preference found in the job market leaves out the older population, making them unemployed and dependents of the country. Although the government social security systems in Brazil provides minimal pensions for the retired persons, medical and health care is a high costly area to manage by the government, considering the frequent and increased number of health deficiencies and illnesses that affect the elders. Old age does not mean the elderly persons are not of use, and are to be forgotten. ‘The elderly have the inherent right to life, dignity, and the integrity of their persons, which shall be protected by law. The elderly have the right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The elderly have the right to be free from discrimination.’

Dona Tuca is a happy old woman; yet her happiness has been tempted by many disappointments. Keeping the flame of hope is necessary in old age; and that is what happened to Dona Tuca when she won an award recently. With the support of some good people, Dona Tuca was enrolled at the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, where she was able to involve in Music and Theatre. “Thanks to good people, my talents were recognized even at this old age; I ask you all to consider us existing and believe in us – that we too can do something” states Dona Tuca in her own native language Portuguese.

Elderly persons are difficult to manage at times. Patience becomes scarce for people of old age; their minds and bodies become less flexible and their voices more weakened. And when the elderly have no neurological problems, their heads believe everything can be done by them – they become stubborn and arrogant too. But this is not who they really are; rather it is the old age and the incompetence they feel surrounded by a fast growing technological world; it is their loneliness and unrecognition that makes them to act so. Hence it is vital for the society to recognize the elders, and accept their existence, making sure they too have a dignified life even in their last days.

And even at eighty-five, Dona Tuca uses her talents to survive her old age challenges and to be independent, however lonely and feeble she may be. Today, Dona Tuca is in the process of getting her first book published. Soon she will be recognized as a writer. She will be a proud author of her own creation, and autographing printed books, being welcomed by people, and embracing her fans and followers.

Dona Tuca is this old woman living in a high risk prone shanty area, which has its wide range of limitations for women to move forward or to achieve something in life, due to the poverty, health, and safety that controls these slums. Yet, nothing stopped Dona Tuca to realize her passion; her strong mind with determination, and support from other a few other women, helped her to succeed, in achieving her dream.

With a feeble smile she says “Estou feliz quando posso fazer o que gosto de fazer” (I am happy when I can do what I like doing).

 Valéria Barbosa |  Brazil