The idea was born about seven years ago when the association “Os Pioneiros” concluded that “there was a need for a social response that precedes nursing homes and that gives people the chance to be autonomous and have their normal lives”.
“We call it Casinhas Autónomas, but a former minister who visited the institution informally called it a social village and I think the name fits quite well, because this, at heart, is a village. People know each other and interact with each other as in a village”, said José Carlos Arede, president of the direction of “Os Pioneiros”.
Built on the land of this private institution of social solidarity, based in Mourisca do Vouga, the village consists of ten prefabricated wooden houses surrounded by an extensive garden and a pine forest. In each one lives a couple or two people of the same sex, according to Lusa News Agency.
Sitting on a small porch in front of one of the houses, we find Benilde da Glória Vidal, 86 years old, and Emília de Jesus Antunes, 85 years old. They are the two most recent residents of the houses. They moved here almost two years ago and have been sharing the same home since then.
“I lived in my home alone. My daughter doesn't have time to look after me and I thought I would come to these little houses”, says Glória Vidal.
The house has a kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom. The space is tight, but it has everything you need. “I like being here. I really like the house, I like paradise, I like people, I like everything”, she said.
“People when they arrive here are fascinated, because they will not lose their autonomy. They feel they are in their own homes”, highlights José Carlos Arede, adding that there are currently around 30 people on the waiting list.
The houses are rented for a price that varies between about 100 Euros and 850 Euros. “When people don't have it, they can't pay. It is according to income. We don't want something elitist here”, said José Carlos Arede.
António de Oliveira Pinho, also known as “Pauleta”, started by helping the association as a volunteer and, about seven years ago, moved to Casinhas Autónomas. The decision came after the woman's divorce.
“I don't like loneliness. We have to walk, exercise, talk to people and here we have it all. When I feel like it, I go out for snacks, drink a few glasses with friends and play cards, because I really like playing cards”, he said.
This ex-professional football player who has been in South Africa for more than 40 years cannot imagine living in a nursing home. “Who wants to go a nursing home? I hope I’m not going there quickly. I want to see if I escape from there, nobody likes to go there”, he states.
The president of “Os Pioneiros” regrets that this social response is not foreseen in the Law, considering that the houses play an “essential” role, not least because the reality of the elderly has changed a lot in recent years.