An evangelical initiative is helping senior citizens in Brazil attain literacy. Named Melhor Idade (Best Age), the imitative involves the efforts of believers of various professions.
Despite Brazil’s growing literacy rate, the nation still struggles with a high illiteracy rate amongst the elderly.
"Most of them suffered with this process of illiteracy. I saw seniors who took the Bible for worship, and never opened the Bible," explained Marcos Vilar, who is involved with the project.
According to Vilar, each senior would be served by a specialist in occupational therapy, which includes that of psychosomatic or motor learning. “They [instructors] will be able to treat them while they study,” he said.
He also told The Christian Post that the project was initiated in light of the increasing number of elderly in Brazil – especially in Belo Horizonte city, which has the sixth largest elderly population in the country. Vilar also shared that 4,000 members of his church were elderly, and in need of the occupational therapy offered by the project.
"We associate the method with the introduction of biblical principles, to have an effective mechanism for social transformation," Vilar explained. "We're using a method of Paulo Freire, a sociologist and educator who taught hundreds of migrant farm workers in Pernambuco, in three months.”
Nonetheless, Vilar said, the ultimate goal for project coordinators is evangelism.
"It's a way for people to be evangelized by their own life experiences," he explained. “The instructor will show his [or her] own life experience to the student – showing what would truly be loving [to] our neighbors.”
Other coordinators shared their thoughts as well.
"I understand that literacy is more than learning to read and write,” said Jemima Maia Cordeiro, who works as an occupational therapist in mental health. “It is also to make one feel that [he or she] participates in society.”
Though there are other literacy projects, Melhor Idade is different in that it is based on biblical principles.
"Words, phrases, texts used are all Christian-based – words that bring life and hope,” explained Cordeiro. “Everything will be done to stimulate and motivate them [seniors].”