My Tico Heart: Katya De Luisa
Katya De Luisa has resided in Costa Rica since 1980 and is a naturalized citizen. She is an artist, author, freelance writer on healthy aging and has designed expressive arts programs focused on self-awareness and raising personal consciousness for over four decades.
As a dementia educator and caregiver consultant, she has provided information and training centered on holistic approaches to eldercare. Her book, "Journey through the Infinite Mind…the science and spirituality of dementia, has been published in both English and Spanish and is a forerunner of its kind. Her articles on aging and dementia have been published in a variety of magazines.
Katya is considered to be one of Costa Rica's early ex-pat pioneers. Arriving in Costa Rica in 1980 as a single mom with two small children, four suitcases, and $900, she eventually became instrumental in the evolution of this country. Considering herself to be a creative entrepreneur, she created the first eco-tour on the Pacific West Coast, designed, published, and distributed the first tourist maps of the country, and was instrumental in the growth of the budding ecotourism industry with her publicity company with a focus on the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. She was a successfully exhibiting professional artist and formed the only organization to work with street children which later became the model for Costa Rica’s Child Welfare’s (PANI) street child program.
Her work in the field of dementia began in 2000 after returning to Florida. For two years she developed the only picture communication therapy for late-stage dementia and partnered with the Alzheimer's Association, Hospice, and the Bureau of Elder Affairs, presenting the program at several international conferences on aging and conducting seminars across the country.
Since returning to Costa Rica she has been dedicated to raising awareness about dementia by providing innovative material not normally found in the mainstream dementia information. She conducts caregiver training and presentations, does family caregiver mentoring, and provides resource information.
She is presently involved in developing an Indigenous Elder Support project with Costa Rica’s southern tribes, finding resources, and giving individual counseling to families caring for the elderly in their homes. The project includes community presentations on healthy aging and dementia education through the development of a network of health professionals.
Throughout my life I have been a wanderer and spiritual seeker, never living in one place longer than a year. That is until I came to Costa Rica. I guess you can say I was called here.
While living on an island off Sarasota Florida, I asked the Universe to send me a sign as to where to move next. I wanted to leave the US and didn’t know where to go. The following week a friend showed up at my house saying he just got back from Costa Rica. I asked him where that was and he pulled a map out of his pocket. I had gotten my sign and we moved there six months later; I was 34 years old.
People say this is paradise, but I say it's just life. From experience, I know no matter where you go there you are. I love this country but like anywhere it has its ups and downs. Yes, it’s beautiful, yet that hasn’t been all that has captured me. The Ticos have their faults like anyone, but they are a heartfelt culture that I have found more comfortable than my own. As the habitual wanderer, I've lived in many places. In Costa Rica, I've found the diversity of climates and cultures within this country fascinating, and it was a great place to raise kids, and my three are bilingual.
When I first came here, it was pretty much a frontier, and it tested my abilities to survive for sure. However, whatever Costa Rica didn't have, I'd seen in other places. I could see the trajectory of its future, so I looked at what was needed and then would pull out of my bag of tricks what was working elsewhere.
It wasn't easy, I wasn't financially flush, but I was creative and always got excited trying out new ways to live life. Eventually, I nationalized, my kids grew up and flew the nest, and I donated my body to a medical school. I like to joke that I'll rest in pieces in Costa Rica.
Now at 73 have I've settled into the realization that I'm finally "Home."