- Birthday celebrations are an important event that makes you feel special and loved. But for people in care homes, it may be lonely.
- At this Western Cape residential care facility, they go the extra mile to make residents feel special on their birthdays.
- They include them in the preparations, where they choose the food and décor and shower residents with gifts.
A birthday is a day that comes around once a year, and it is a time to celebrate the life of an individual. Regardless of who we are, we all like to feel valued and special by the people around us.
At residential care facilities, such as Camphill Village, on the West Coast in the Western Cape, a birthday is a big event where residents are pampered and spoiled by fellow residents on their special day.
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People often incorrectly assume that care homes are occupied by the elderly or the sick. Younger people, however, also live in group homes for many reasons. At Camphill Village, ninety-seven intellectually impaired adults live and work in harmony.
The farm, which is part of the cavernous property, is where various products are made by the residents, including baked goods, dairy items and cosmetics. These products are sold in retail outlets in and around Cape Town, contributing towards the organisation's sustainability and offering their residents the opportunity to live meaningful lives with purpose.
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Birthdays are events that are always looked forward to by the residents. Forming part of the build-up to the day, there is planning around how the day will be celebrated. Residents enjoy this part of their birthdays because they are given the opportunity to be included in the preparation, such as choosing what food will be served on the day and the particular party decor, among other things.
"We have a Camphill Village WhatsApp group, where, in the morning, the Group Home Leader announces the birthdays for the particular day so that the whole village is reminded to wish the person celebrating, ensuring that he or she is made to feel special throughout the day," explains Carine, who is the social worker at Camphill Village.
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Residents sometimes ask a few guests to join them for lunch at the village on their birthdays. The village organizes a cake, and the resident can choose his or her favourite meal to enjoy. Some residents’ families take the whole house on an outing, like to a restaurant or the beach, and other families bring everything that is needed for a braai for everyone to enjoy at the communal braai area on the farm.
For the older residents, who often do not have family, the group home leaders take responsibility for ensuring they receive a gift. Together with the resident, they collaboratively organise an outing, a meal of his or her choice, a cake and party décor.
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A birthday is synonymous with family gatherings, and social events and people who live in residential care facilities experience their coming-of-age no differently.
Even though some of the residents do not have a blood-related family to celebrate with, it is not something that should prompt a sense of pity or sadness, but it is a reality to be managed with compassion.