Turning 100 on May 12 has been a different kind of birthday celebration this year for Maggie La Ferla, who is a resident at Casa San Paolo, an elderly home run by CareMalta in Bugibba.

Together with other residents, the centenarian hasn’t been able to see her family for almost two months now.

But this hasn’t stopped her loved ones – three generations – from going to the elderly home on May 12 to wish Maggie a happy birthday in person, even though they could only see her cut the cake, blow the candles and appreciate the flowers they sent her.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to complications resulting from COVID-19 infection and have been ordered to stay indoors where possible. Visits to care homes have also been halted, to protect residents from the risk of infection.

CareMalta’s management were the first to move a team of workers into elderly homes to ensure residents were cared for and safe throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Not being able to go visit her mother has been devastating for Maggie’s only daughter, Frieda Guillaumier, who has taken care of her for the past 25 years.

A former employee, Frieda worked for CareMalta as a home care coordinator, first at Casa Arkati, then at Villa Messina, after which she was moved to the company’s head office until her retirement in 2011.

Frieda has a daughter and a son – Michela and Jacques – who each have a daughter and a son, Faye and Raphael, respectively. Jacques and Raphael live in Melbourne, Australia, so they couldn’t be ‘present’ on the day.

“After my grandmother fell and broke her thigh bone, we decided to place her in care,” said Michela Formosa. “This wasn’t an easy decision for us and my mother makes it a point to visit my grandmother every day. So, the lockdown came as quite a blow. Also not being able to call my grandmother on the phone, because she’s hard of hearing, does not make things easier.”

Born in 1920, Maggie was the eldest of three children, two girls and a boy. Losing her mother to typhoid fever when she was only three years old, she was raised by her father and aunts, especially her aunt Virginia.

Despite losing her mother so early in life, Maggie enjoyed a privileged upbringing, completing her full education at St Joseph’s Convent, which was rather unique for a woman in those times.

Maggie married Alfred La Ferla in 1950 and had her daughter Frieda in 1951. She later gave birth to a son, who only survived for one day. Maggie was a housewife who enjoyed many hobbies, such as painting, sewing and knitting. Having later joined the Malta Floral Club, she loved flower arranging and flower pressing and created wonderful pictures using flowers.

Maggie is the only survivor among her siblings and cousins.

“While, emotionally, it is very hard to accept not being able to see my mother, rationally, it was the right decision to protect not only the vulnerable residents but also the care workers, to whom we are grateful for the sacrifices they are making,” Frieda said.