From Rural Cape Town to Beautiful Montreux! A Reflection from #Globalageing2017 (Guest Post)

Photo: (From Left to Right) Sr. Lucia of St. Antonine’s Home for the Aged, Viv Allanson of Maroba and Sr. Busisiwe Hlomani of St. Antonine’s Home for the Aged

Global Ageing Network scholarship recipient, Sr. Busisiwe Lucia Hlomani of St. Antonine’s Home for the Aged in South Africa reflects on her time in Montreux at the 2017 Global Ageing Conference and insights gained from the international experience.

My name is Sister Busisiwe Lucia Hlomani. I was born onthe Eastern Cape in South Africa and have lived there my entire life. In 2006, I joined the religious life and have been working at St. Antonine’s Home for the Aged, home to 60 elders in rural KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, as an Administrative Assistant. I am also working on my Degree in Human Resource Management at the College of South Africa (MANCOSA).

This past September, I had the opportunity to travel to the Global Ageing Network conference in Montreux, Switzerland. This was my first experience traveling outside of South Africa. The Global Ageing Conference was a unique experience to learn about various regional perspectives and allowed me to interact with experts working in senior care from around the world. The conference was sprinkled with exciting entertainment, networking opportunities and social events, including a beautiful opening reception and dinner.

The rich and frank discussions on several important issues in ageing helped us all to understand each other’s perspective. As Marcus Riley stated during the opening session, “we come together to learn from one another,” I believe that learning from one another is imperative in order to truly serve the elder community. For me, older persons are the best teachers as I learn from their past to build up my future. I love to share and listen to their interesting stories and to give them my helping hand which brings hope to their lives.

Every session I attended was engaging and insightful. The level and diversity of discussion were outstanding. Our speakers encouraged us to create a non-judgemental community, where love and peace were at the center of our work. They reinforced the motto that we should not judge our residents or any of the staff, but rather treat them as we want to be treated.

One of the most interesting sessions, “Culture Shock: Creating Inclusive Communities” was led by Pegeen Sullivan, Cecily Laidman, and Jeremy Neely. The session explored the history, parallels and lessons learned from the global migration and major social justice movements in the last 75 years as they apply to the long-term care industry and the demand to create welcoming, affirming and safe community cultures. I hope to use the lessons learned and implement a culture of open communication and homely spirit among both staff and residents in South Africa.

As I return back to St. Antonine’s Home for the Aged, I am re-energized to share my experience and to implement what I have learned while at the conference. I will examine at your daily activities to determine what improvements need to be made to ensure that we are maintaining the spirit of elder community. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference and thank the Global Ageing team for their continued dedication to connect and support care and service providers worldwide to enhance quality of life for ageing.