Lonely old people: adopt a grandparent

A wide range of initiatives to keep the lonely elderly company

One and a half million old people in Spain are living alone. According to surveys, over 59% of senior citizens feel lonely, which prompts insecurity, sadness and depression. But several initiatives are being put in place across the Country to keep them company. The experience of a parish in Málaga. The centre for old people in the parish of María Santísima de la Amargura, in Málaga, is a meeting place for 215 people jointly taking part in various activities. The centre, open daily from 10 to 13 hours, offers memory- training workshops, dancing, gym, painting, singing, reflections on the Word of God, general knowledge courses and sewing. There also excursions, solidarity fairs and charity markets for Caritas. As explained by the responsible of the centre, María Teresa Carmona, “the religious spirit is very present, within the respect of individual freedom”. This aspect is what makes the difference compared to other initiatives for older people, since they don’t forget they are welcomed inside the Church. The only necessary requisite to enjoy the services of the centre is having turned 65. Like the Good Samaritan. The religious of the Saint Camillus Centre organize “Samaria”: a summer working camp that provide youths with the possibility of living a week at the service of old people who are no longer independent, and who reached the final phase of their lives. During the week “Samaria” offers youths aged 18-25 the possibility of living an experience not only of service but also of pastoral formation, silence, oration and meeting that will enable participants to delve into the question of fragility, the care of life and the meaning of the commitment in the footsteps of Christ. The activities held in the “Samaria” working camp will be focused on attention and care for the guests of the “San Camilo de Tres Cantos” Centre (Madrid). To take part in this experience it is sufficient to want to live the faith and share it with others, taking the Good Samaritan of the evangelical Parable as the role model. An original idea. Margarita is 94, she lives in the retirement home “Sanyred Nuestra Señora de Loreto” (Madrid). Every Friday she receives the visit of Alejandro and Miguel, two young 19-year-old students who have “adopted” her as a grandmother. The initiative “Adopt a grandparent” was initiated by Alberto Cabanes who one day had this idea while visiting his grandfather in a retirement home in Ciudad Real. There he met an 86-year-old widower who on the day of the Epiphany confessed to be completely alone. They made an agreement: Alberto adopted him as a grandfather and the old man experienced a great joy. That was when Alberto started to reflect on the fact that there could be many similar situations. He decided to launch the initiative of “adopting” elderly people living alone and seek students who, altruistically, would spend time with old people without a family. “We give the youths a three hour training course to help them deal with the elderly in the right way – explains Belén Ortiz, director of the retirement home Sanyred -. It’s a real joy to see the happiness of our elderly when they receive the visit of the volunteers, two at a time for each old man”. “The tree of life”. The Vianorte-Laguna Foundation and the Orvallehan School have launched “The tree of life”, a project to be close to the poor. The purpose is to raise awareness on the care of the elderly who are no longer independent, and emphasize their dignity. “It’s a cross-generational solidarity project that explains to children – initially from the Orvalle School, although we intend to extend the program also to other schools – life cycles and what it means to be an old person, that should be supported until the end of life…. pointed out Mar Barbero, director of development for the Foundation -. It’s very nice to see that young people aged 13-18 take part in the initiative”. Initiatives include weekend visits, solidarity meals, crafts and leisure activity.

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