A while back I heard about a compelling initiative by an organisation named Äldrekontakt (older contact, or contact with elders) that sets up social coffee gatherings in peoples homes. A group of 6-8 elderly people living alone are picked up by volunteer drivers and taken to a volunteer’s home, with most volunteers being between 25 and 40, where they are treated to coffee, baked goods and, above all, great conversation. The same group of elderly people meet each month but the volunteers vary, giving consistency to the participants but also limiting the necessary commitment of volunteers.
What I particularly love about this initiative is how clearly it benefits all parties. Hearing peoples’ life stories and wisdoms presents incredible learning lessons for younger people and the chance to socially interact in someones home is particularly appreciated by the elderly participants, in addition to hearing the perspectives of the younger hosts. The organisation works with local municipalities to identify elderly people living alone who do not have very many visits from or much contact with other people, ensuring that the program reaches those who may benefit the most. This particular initiative is very well organized but it also presents an idea that can be easily implemented almost anywhere! I’ve now signed up to become a host (I promise to post about my own experience if I’m contacted) but I also considered that in my building alone there are 4 women over the age of 85 living alone – perhaps it is their wisdom I should reach out for first!