Volunteers needed: have dinner with seniors and help fight loneliness

Volunteers needed: have dinner with seniors and help fight loneliness

The Polish city of Gdansk is looking for people willing to have a nice chat with lonely elderly

With the "Eat dinner with the senior" program in Gdansk, Poland aims to reduce loneliness among old people, report the local authorities. It was created to help the oldest residents who not only live alone, but as a result of illness or mobility problems, cannot leave the house. The organizers recruit volunteers and restaurants who would like to join the project. They need:

  • volunteers who will visit seniors in their homes, bringing a warm dinner once a week;
  • restaurateurs who would like to prepare two portions of lunch for a volunteer and a senior once a week (in disposable packaging);
  • and finally, seniors who long for the company of another human-being.

The program is run jointly by the Gdańsk Regional Volunteer Centre and the Municipal Family Assistance Centre. Agnieszka Buczyńska, president of the RCW, said that following last year’s test project, when four senior-volunteer couples took part, today there are ambitions to expand further as there are many lonely seniors in Gdańsk who are trapped in the home as a result of illness. Despite that caregivers come to pay a visit and take care of their basic needs, they have no time to meet the most superior need: for a longer conversation and attention. A common meal, which naturally brings people closer together, is seen as a wonderful opportunity to make a relationship, spend time together, once a week for two or three hours.

What is important is that the project is aimed at supporting a specific person, which is why "dinner pairs" are meticulously selected: in terms of interests, hobbies, or a common profession, to facilitate the parties' making contact. Such information about seniors is collected by visiting social workers. For instance, during the piloting of the program at one table, for example, a retired architect with an architecture student would meet. The benefits were mutual. The senior woman felt needed because she could share her professional experience with a young girl, and the future architect received first-hand knowledge - one that one cannot always count on at the university. But the common table can also combine, for example, the joy of playing board games or cards, or the passion for handicrafts.

Hours of meetings at the table will be set individually. The organizers also recruit people who, if the "primary volunteer" cannot reach the meeting, will replace him at the table. The lower age limit of the volunteer is 16 years, the upper limit has not been designated. As for the premises searched, they need to be located close to the senior's apartment so that dinner does not get cold on the way. What is more, a positive upshot of the project is to make it so that the local business works for its immediate environment. So far, the organizers report having no issues with finding willing restaurateurs during the pilot.

Owners of good-tasting restaurants can count on putting their business logotype on the RCW website (and ultimately on the planned project website). They will also receive a sticker with the program logo for gluing on the restaurant or bar's website.



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