Playing handball can be good for your aches, according to 77-year-old Rosa Lima, a resident of El Alto, Bolivia. It’s also fun and friendship.
“There are days my knees hurt from rheumatism, but when I play it goes away,” she says.
Lima is one of several older women who play the decidedly unBolivian Olympic sport. She and her teammates – all indigenous Aynmara grandmothers, or awichas, who gather for handball every Wednesday with their tennis shoes and jerseys – are the subjects of a new photo essay by AP photographer Juan Karita.
The impoverished town of El Alto, not far from Bolivia’s capital, instituted the handball program to encourage older people to stay active. Along with the sport, the thousand or so program participants also play traditional music and take part in a memory project. And they’re entitled to free medical care. Pressure from older Bolivians and forward-thinking policy makers helped lead to the country’s National Plan on Aging and have placed Bolivia higher in national age-friendly rankings than some much wealthier nations. (See our article “91 Countries Measure Up on Aging: Where Do We Rank?”
“This helps us a lot,” Juana Poma, an 84-year-old great-grandmother of five, told the AP. “Look, I’m full of life, but I’m also thinner.”
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Photos: Juan Karita/AP