Tyrone Reid, Enterprise Reporter
THE WELL-MANICURED lawns and lush fruit trees of The Golden-Age Home, an infirmary for elderly indigent and disabled Jamaicans, present a picture of a calm oasis at its Vineyard Town, Kingston 3, location. Beneath the surface, however, in residential clusters, is a heartbreaking and stomach-churning story of abuse and neglect.
Many of the elderly residents are subjected to a mass bathing ritual each morning - stripped, lathered, and then sprayed with water from a hose. After the co-ed bathing exercise, the male and female residents are forced to walk back to their dorms stark naked.
An undercover Sunday Gleaner investigation has unearthed several instances of abuse and inhumane treatment at The Golden-Age Home, an infirmary for elderly indigent and disabled Jamaicans in Vineyard Town, Kingston 3.
Many of the elderly residents are subjected to a mass bathing ritual each morning. Both men and women, awakened before 7 a.m., are led to a section of the cluster's corridor where they are stripped, lathered, and then sprayed with water from a hose. After the co-ed bathing exercise, the male and female residents are forced to walk back to their dorms stark naked.
Several severely disabled residents spend most of their days wallowing on dirty floors. There appeared to be more flies than the 427 residents who call the facility home. The flies were everywhere - on the residents, and on their food.
When our news team visited the premises last week, the lengthy pathway leading to the cluster dwellings was pristine. The grass was well kept, and a gentle breeze caressed the entire property.
However, all that tranquillity changed when our news team ventured on to the clusters. Cluster A, the first of eight dormitories, was the first stop. A foul odour, coming from what appeared to be faeces mingled with urine, assaulted our nostrils.
One worker was heard verbally assaulting a disabled woman from the 'baby room', so called because the occupants there are not able to do anything for themselves. The practical nurse repeatedly referred to the disabled females as "gyal".
While the news team was at the facility, a worker was heard to instruct one of the disabled residents from the 'baby room' to go to the bathroom that was in the room. Unable to walk, she crept to the bathroom. She was naked. After the quick shower, the disabled woman, still naked and now wet, had to creep back to her bed.
The sight of severely disabled woman tied to a bed with strips of white cloth conjured up images of the ill-fated Eventide Home at Slipe Pen Road in Kingston that was razed by fire on May 20, 1980, killing more than 150 elderly women.
The Eventide residents were abused and neglected to the point where rodents had the liberty of feeding on some of their body parts. Almost 31 years later, some of the Eventide survivors who were taken to The Golden-Age Home, are still living at the Vineyard Town home. This golden-age home was designed to be the answer to the Eventide problem.
Father Richard Ho Lung, founder and superior general of Roman Catholic charity Missionaries of the Poor, was one of the leading voices in the condemnation of the treatment meted out to the poor who lived at Eventide.
When told recently of what was transpiring at The Golden-Age Home, he questioned whether the country had so soon forgotten those who perished at Eventide.
"Have our memories gone dim? Eventide is the most tragic display of human neglect our country has ever known. Let us never repeat it again," Ho Lung urged. He added: "Remember, the civilisation of our nation is known by the kindness we offer our poor."
Administrator of the home, Major Frank McCaulsky, told The Sunday Gleaner that the Local Government Ministry, the arm of Government that has portfolio responsibility for the home, handles all media queries relating to the home. "We don't deal with the press here at the home at all," he said.
Attempts to get a comment from the ministry's communications unit about the home's staffing needs, and details on the cluster sponsorship programme it has established with several private-sector entities and non-profit organisations like Food For the Poor were unsuccessful.