“I think of it like home,” Gulzar Abdul Sheriff said in Gujarati on a video call. Gulzar, 81, has lived at Jubilee Towers for 12 years. It’s hard to speak with her because of the language barrier and her now quiet voice, but it’s easy to understand how she feels.
To appreciate why she and others speak of the facility in glowing terms, we can start with the care provided and the activities organised.
In addition to a daily schedule that includes exercise, mental stimulation activities (such as puzzles and games), and prayers at Jamatkhana, the seniors enjoy many more fun activities throughout the year.
“We make sure they don’t miss out on anything,” Shagufa Jamal explained. Shagufa is the Ismaili Council for Tanzania’s member for the social care committee.
“We take them to movies. Once every three months we have a dinner date with them where we take them to fancy hotels. They are suited and booted.”
Shagufa added “They are our family.”
She also mentioned other fun celebrations the seniors enjoy: regular picnics at Coco Beach, monthly birthday parties for those whose birthdays fall that month, Khushiali, Valentine’s Day, Diwali, and many others.
About once a month, youth and young volunteers visit to speak and play with the seniors. Shagufa says the activities remind the seniors of their own grandchildren who they may not see often.
With this arrangement, everyone benefits. Senior residents have a regular social activity to look forward to, can share their values and wisdom, stave off depression, and feel youthful again. At the same time, the young visitors are helped to develop their emotional intelligence, better understand their history and traditions, and learn skills such as sewing, baking, and woodworking.
Originating as a legacy project of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee in 2007, Jubilee Towers is located across the street from Darkhana in Dar es Salaam). Construction of the 10-story building finished in 2008. Some of the floors contain dormitory style rooms, while others have apartment residences.
Currently, there are 32 residents in the building, though it can accommodate up to 65. Two floors are designated for students, who often come from various smaller cities including Mwanza, Arusha, and Zanzibar. They usually live alongside the seniors for two-year periods, joining their building-mates for all meals and prayer times.
The building is operated by a 25-person staff, which includes day and night shifts. There are two full-time nurses, two cooks, and a husband-and-wife caretaking team who live on site.
Since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, with an increased awareness of mental health, Ismaili Council members have had regular conversations with residents on this topic as well.
Almas Hanif Mawani, one of the caretakers, discusses how much she and her husband enjoy their jobs: “On Saturdays and Sundays we volunteer here too,” she explained.
Abdul Vira is a 73-year-old resident who has lived at Jubilee Towers for six years.
“It’s very good here,” he said. “Medical assistance is good, food is good. All the people are more than a family. I love it.”