Gema Monge, a young entrepreneur from Costa Rica has been selected as YABT’s entrepreneur of the month. Gema is the Director of Proyecto Gerontovida and a finalist of TIC Americas 2014. Gema, who will graduate soon as a Clinical Psychologist in the Universidad Latina in Costa Rica, founded Proyecto Gerontovida as a platform to support the mental health of seniors that have been abandoned in Costa Rica.
Proyecto Gerontovida is a nonprofit association that provides individual and group care for the elderly that are in a vulnerable state. Through psychological health, Proyecto Gerontovida works to guarantee a higher and better quality of life for seniors.
Since her childhood, Gema has served as a volunteer in various causes, such as childcare and elderly day care. In an interview with Gema, she told us that when she started working at senior centers, she felt she was actually contributing to their wellbeing, besides feeling comfortable around them.
A determining factor to launch Proyecto Gerontovida was the death of her grandmother six years ago. After this happening, Gema confessed us that she wanted to be surrounded by grandparents like her “abuelita” while providing them with psychological support to overcome dramatic situations, such as abandonment.
Her biggest challenge to kick-start Proyecto Gerontovida was the uncertainty of not knowing how to make a business plan and the legal aspects of it. After attending various leadership and entrepreneurship fora in her Alma Mater, Gema decided to launch Project Gerontovida as a response to the abandonment of the elderly. Today, Proyecto Gerontovida is registered as a nonprofit association in the territory of Costa Rica.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Costa Rica, 10% of the population is considered elderly, which amounts to 450,000 inhabitants. From 55 shelters that are currently operating in the Central Area of San Jose, Proyecto Gerontovida conducted a survey in 27 of them. Proyecto Gerontovida chose these 27 shelters because they are public centers that exclusively catered seniors in a state of abandonment. As a result of this survey, Proyect Gerontovida found out the following:
• 16 asylums (59% of the total number of asylums interviewed) reported having 40% to 100% of seniors in a state of abandonment.
• 7 asylums reported having between 50% and 75% of seniors in a state of abandonment.
• 6 asylums claimed having more than 75% of seniors in a state of abandonment.
After publishing this study, Proyecto Gerontovida was asked to work with seniors at Albergue the Rehabilitación Alcholica del Adulto Mayor Indigente de Tirrases, where more than 85% of its population is in a state of abandonment.
Moreover, Proyecto Gerontovida provides consultancy and training to families, shelters and families through a partnership it has with Emergency Care. Workshop and talks implemented by Proyecto Gerontovida cover a wide range of themes, such as "Emergency Management for the Home", "Care of the Elderly", and "First Aid and CPR International Certificate". Gema is keen to incorporate topics, such as “grief” and "support for the sick and terminal patients" aimed at families going through this rough situation.
By 2015, Gema hopes to turn this first experience at shelter Albergue the Rehabilitación Alcholica del Adulto Mayor Indigente de Tirrases into a project where students of Professional Practices in Psychology can and engage and eventually expand it to more cities in Costa Rica, and other Central American countries.
Currently, the Proyecto Gerontovida is also structuring a sponsorship program called "Adopt a Grandparent" where an economic contribution will help to pay the cost for mental health treatment of a senior. The idea to run it as a Corporate Responsibility project in order to establish strategic partnerships with the private sector in Costa Rica and Central America.
Finally, YABT took the opportunity to ask Gema for timely advice aimed at young entrepreneurs who are participating in TIC Americas 2015, Gema recommended from her own experience to "never stop persevering in developing a venture [because it will always feel like] a rollercoaster of trial and error".
For more information on Proyecto Gerontovida, visit: www.proyectogerontovida.org
Telephone number: 8832-4914