Organiser: Friends of the Elderly Private Foundation (Fundació Privada Amics de la Gent Gran).

Collaborating organisation: Ramon Molinas Foundation.

Implementation dates: 01/01/2020 – 31/12/2020.

 

Companionship for elderly people that suffer from loneliness and social isolation in Leida, a programme with emotional connection at its centre

The Ramon Molinas Foundation is collaborating with Friends of the Elderly with the aim of alleviating the loneliness and social isolation suffered by many older adults in Leida. The programme provides befriending services and social activities organised by volunteers.

The Friends of the Elderly scheme matches each elderly person with a volunteer that meets their specific needs. In their weekly visits, the volunteers offer companionship and hope to foster a quality relationship with chats, walks, or activities to create a bond of trust.

In parallel, Friends of the Elderly organises workshops and social activities. Meetings of groups of volunteers and older people encourage participants to connect with their community. One example is the Granny’s Scarf Workshop, a project that unites social action with arts and crafts with the aim of weaving together a network of contacts whilst sharing skills and experiences.

Friends of the Elderly also organises social activities that help elderly people to take part in yearly traditions such as lunches to celebrate Sant Joan and Christmas and activities for Sant Jordi. Lastly, Friends of the Elderly organises the Holidays with Friends scheme, an initiative that encourages intergenerational friendships to help fight against loneliness of elderly people during the summer.

 

56 elderly people in Leida will benefit from the scheme

A total of 56 people aged 65 or older who suffer from loneliness and social isolation in Leida will participate in the programme throughout 2020. The scheme’s beneficiaries are typically older people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, a medium level of dependency for carrying out basic daily tasks, and that feel lonely or have significant emotional needs.

The programme participants are typically referred by the Leida city council’s social services, health centres, other council organisations, or are requested to join by families, neighbours, or the elderly people themselves. Once participants have been identified, the organisation evaluates their degree of vulnerability to loneliness or social isolation, assigns them a volunteer and begins to monitor the progress of the befriending programme.

Companionship for elderly people that suffer from loneliness and social isolation in Leida counts on the collaboration of 47 volunteers that help to empower the participants to establish deeper connections and bonds within their community. Throughout 2020, the initiative is expected to carry out 26 social activities and 3 social events.

 

Loneliness has an impact on the health of elderly people

In 2018, Catalonia counted 1,417,311 people over 65. A little over 21%, 300,400, were elderly people living alone. Of these, 150,000 were known to suffer from loneliness and social isolation. In the city of Leida, in the same year there were 24,320 people over 65 years old, of whom 21.95% lived alone.

Loneliness is the subjective, unwelcome feeling of a mismatch between the quality or quantity of social contact that a person desires and what that person has in reality. Loneliness has a significant impact on the emotional wellbeing and physical health of elderly people, increasing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, immune disorders, obesity, and has a negative effect on mobility. Elderly people that are lonely can also suffer from depression, sleep problems, cognitive impairment, and are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This has been confirmed by studies such as the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP). The study, conducted by the University of Chicago, analysed the link between loneliness and certain illnesses.

Emotional support is fundamental to alleviating loneliness. Emotional connection and fostering a network of support helps to improve personal autonomy, trust and community participation in elderly people.

 

Friends of the Elderly, an organisation with more than three decades of experience in the fight against loneliness in older people

Friends of the Elderly was launched in Barcelona in 1987, but its origins date back to the post-war period. Les petits frères des Pauvres was founded in Paris in 1946, with the objective of launching a programme that fostered emotional support for older people that had lost their families and social network.

Taking inspiration from the French organisation, Friends of the Elderly began to provide services to elderly people in the city of Barcelona. The aim was to fight against loneliness and social marginalisation with a befriending programme managed by volunteers, and by raising awareness of the problem in wider society.

Three decades later, Friends of the Elderly has expanded its reach and impact across the region. The organisation is present in 36 municipalities in Catalonia, providing support to more than 175,000 elderly people, and is made up of around 2,000 volunteers. Throughout the year 2018, Friends of the Elderly carried out 152,000 hours of companionship and organised 798 activities. The foundation is also a member of the National Federation of Friends of the Elderly and the Les petits frères des Pauvres-Friends of the elderly International Foundation, recognised by the UN.

 

Links of interest:

Friends of the Elderly website.