How a Czech supermodel became a leading advocate for elderly people – and helped break the taboo on incontinence.
A former Miss World might seem an unlikely figure to be taking a prominent role in helping elderly people deal with the difficulties of incontinence. But that’s exactly what Tatiana Gregor Brzobohata is doing as part of her wide-ranging work on behalf of senior citizens in her native Czech Republic and beyond.
Tatiana, a brand ambassador for HARTMANN in the Czech Republic and Slovakia for the past two years, first became interested in helping disadvantaged elderly people during the months right after she was crowned Miss World in 2006 at just 18 years old.
During that period, she was using her new-found celebrity to help raise more than $10m for various high-profile international charities. But over time the realization grew that one important group was being overlooked: the elderly.
“I was very glad to use my position as Miss World to help vulnerable children, people suffering illness and disability and those affected by poverty, disasters and conflict,” she recalls. “But it seemed to me there was not nearly enough attention on the needs of seniors.”
So in 2008, alongside a glittering career as a supermodel, Tatiana set up her foundation, Beauty of Help, to support elderly people in the Czech Republic.
The foundation provides practical help, including highly trained social workers, so that seniors can stay in their homes rather than being forced into residential care. It also runs schemes to persuade companies to employ older people and to encourage younger people to spend time visiting their elders in their community.
As the charity’s figurehead, Tatiana campaigns at home in the Czech Republic and on the international stage to raise awareness among policymakers and the general public of the needs of the elderly.
She recently addressed senior politicians from around the world in high-level United Nations (UN) meetings where she highlighted the challenges of rapidly ageing populations worldwide and promoted positive attitudes to older people. And last year, Tatiana represented Czech non-governmental organizations in a review of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Later this year, she will be taking part in a major UN conference on population aging.
Among all these commitments, Tatiana still makes time for direct contact with the older generation. She says: “I like to understand what’s most important to seniors – often it’s to keep their autonomy, even as they age. That’s what shapes the work we do in the foundation.
“And I just love spending time with them. I like to hear their stories and laugh along with them. Those encounters make it all so worthwhile.”
It’s through her contact with older people that Tatiana first became aware of how many of them suffer from incontinence. “It can have a serious impact on people’s lives whatever their age,” she comments. “But for many, it’s a very embarrassing problem and they can be reluctant to ask for the help they need.
Breaking the taboo on incontinence
“I’ve spoken in public about the problems of incontinence, and some older people have told me this has helped them to be more open about it.
“I encourage people to speak to their doctor so they can get the right medication and products. This can make so much difference.”
Tatiana is equally enthusiastic about the value of exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. She explains: “The exercises can be simple and are possible for nearly everyone. They can be a big help in controlling incontinence – and also preventing it. Our social workers advise clients on the best methods for them.”
A decade on from starting her foundation, Tatiana’s commitment to making a difference for older people shows no signs of wavering.
“Growing up as a village girl in the Czech countryside, I was incredibly lucky to spend so much time with my grandparents and even my great-grandparents,” she recalls. “They had a big hand in raising me and my siblings. I think that experience gave me some empathy with the older generation. I want to continue trying to make their lives better for as long as I can.”
2018 marks HARTMANN’s 200-year anniversary.
To commemorate this milestone, we have put together this series of articles. In it we show how our employees and partners contribute to advancing healthcare, as well as discussing trends and issues that affect the healthcare systems we serve.