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A lasting legacy for Marbella's elderly

Soundproofing works at the Santa Marta centre
Soundproofing works at the Santa Marta centre / JOSELE-LANZA
  • Margit Selzer had no children so left a property to the council, with strict instructions on how the money was to be spent

  • Day centres in the town are being modernised after an Austrian lady left a million euros specifically for the care of old people in her will

Few people will remember her (she used to go tothe Encarna Cantero centre, but that was years ago), but many are now grateful to her for a gesture which has provided no less than one million euros to modernise and equip the new Active Participation Centres in Marbella.

This is the money that the council obtained from the sale of a house in the prestigious Los Monteros area, which had belonged to Margit Selzer, an Austrian lady who was born in 1929 in Reichenberg and lived for several years in Marbella. She left the property to the local council in her will. She wanted the money raised from its sale to be spent on improving the day centres for the elderly.

In recent weeks the users of these centres have been watching the arrival of deliveries of all types of domestic appliances, sound systems, air conditioning units, deep fryers and a long list of other equipment, and minor works being carried out on soundproofing and modernising kitchens.

"We are delighted. We never thought anything like this would happen. We're getting everything now," says a longstanding user, Encarna Cantero, after whom one of the centres has been named.

"We're very happy about all this. It has changed everything. We even have more light now. One of our companions here says people can see all our wrinkles now that there is more light," jokes María Romero, of the Plaza de Toros centre. "This woman has done something wonderful for elderly people in Marbella, and we should all be grateful to her."

At the Santa Marta centre, very little remains to be done now. "Everything is different. It really needed this, and we are over the moon," says Ana Naranjo.

Before drawing up the list of what was needed, a team from the council arranged meetings with users of each centre to learn what their priorities were, and then organised an equal allocation of funds.

The lists were sent to Andrew González, the executor of Margit Selzer's estate, who approved the council's plans and has been keeping a close eye on everything. He agreed that a reputable company such as El Corte Inglés would be ideal for providing what was wanted.

A lasting legacy for Marbella's elderly

Now that the works are about to come to an end, the centres are visibly improved. They all have defilibrators, wall clocks, comfortable and practical new furniture, audiovisual and sound equipment with the facility for screenings, air conditioning, new kitchens, professional cooking equipment and LED lighting.

In addition to the general equipment, each centre has requested its own improvements, which range from a billiards table to static bicycles and treadmills, and IT facilities including computers.

Courses

The council will provide the staff to teach the courses once all the equipment has been installed. Sinks, tables, chairs, curtains, bookshelves, freezers, fridges, ceiling fans, armchairs, coat stands, sewing machines, parquet flooring, mirrors... the list is very long for the nine Active Participation Centres for Elderly People in Marbella (Encarna Cantero, Las Chapas, Los Paisajes, Miraflores, Nueva Andalucía, Plaza de Toros, San Pedro Alcántara I and II, and Santa Marta). Altogether it has cost about one million euros.

"The idea was, as she stated in her will, that everything had to be spent on improving the centres for the elderly. We provided the executor with the list of needs. Once everything is done and he has seen the accounts, he will know whether there is anything left to spend or not. If there is, we will buy more items for the centres," says the councillor for Social Rights, Isabel Cintado.

She is also very grateful to Margit. "She has enabled us to carry out major improvements at all the centres for the elderly, with a sum of money which would have been very difficult for the council to have obtained otherwise, all at once and immediately," she says. "What is important is that we comply with this lady's wishes, and she wanted a major improvement of the facilities. It was wonderful news for us when we returned to government in 2017. That's when we discovered that the file about this inheritance had been kept in a drawer since 2015," she says.