14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 8 November 2018 – There are parents who cross their fingers that their children become independent and others who sigh in the distance because their offspring have emigrated or have moved away from home. In a country where there is a deficit of more than 800,000 houses and the housing problems force several generations to live together under one roof, it is easy to think that nobody suffers from the empty nest syndrome, but it is not so.
According to the Population and Housing Census conducted in 2012, 12.6% of Cuban households are made up of single adults. Many of them have seen their children leave to go abroad or start a new life together with their partner in another house. Loneliness, depression and questions about the meaning of one’s existence appear in many of these parents. For social and medical services, recognizing these symptoms and helping those who suffer from them is essential.
“There are elderly people who come here more for the company than the food,” an employee of the Pío Pío Comedor of the Family Service System, located in the Havana municipality of Playa, tells 14ymedio. The locale offers breakfast, lunch and food to retirees with low resources in the area, but another of its functions is “to serve as a meeting place,” says the worker who works in food preparation.
Many of the elderly people who eat in Pío Pío live alone or with other older adults. “They are people who dedicated a good part of their lives to the care of their children and in a moment they were left alone,” laments the employee. In the living room, which functions as a dining room, several old people converse and one shows the photos of a son who lives in distant Hamburg.
The Cuban family has been scattering in recent years with the upturn in travel abroad and emigration. Often younger children leave in search of new horizons and with the promise of helping their parents financially.
In the case of women, the effects of this separation can be expressed with greater severity. 49.1% of older adults living in single-person households are females with a median age of 69 years. For the psychologist Miguel Lugones, mothers feel “that the home is lonely, that their children have grown up and become independent and she feels that she has lost her leading role socially.” The empty nest seems wider and more alien for them.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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