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Circles of Friends of the Elderly | Civic Europe
Community development, Social inclusion

Circles of Friends of the Elderly

Tackling isolation of elderly by engaging local communities in long term volunteering


Who is behind this?

Katalin Somlai

Önkéntes Központ Alapítvány



Idea pitch

Sitting alone in the room and watching the wall, thinking back to old times. Days pass by without talking to anyone. This is the reality of 60% of hungarian elderly, who are the most isolated in Europe.
We at the Friends of the Elderly would like to befriend these people. Talk with them, help with the groceries, celebrate Christmas = CARE. We believe that everyone can do something for isolated elderly people and that friendship cures one of the most threatening disease of nowadays: loneliness.

Where will your project idea take place?

District of Érd, Pest County

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

More than 14% of the population of the district of Érd are of senior age (65+). Due to the lack of proper infrastructure and their physical impairments many of these people are isolated. Youngsters who grew up in the area are moving to the capital as the town cannot provide jobs and entertainment for them, leaving their parents and grand-parents behind. The new inhabitants are not active due to lack of community engagement possibilities. Structured social projects of citizens and a strategy for developing them are missing. Most of the population are not used to raise their voice and left alone elderly are a target for cheating and abuse. Our project reflects on this societal challenge by creating a local intergenerational volunteer community to support isolated elderly of the area.

Who are you doing it for?

Our project is about generating friendly connections between isolated elderly people and the rest of the population within the district of Érd. We believe that in a safe environment which we create with our expertise, friendships can born and last for long term.
Our main target groups:
- Senior people living in the area (16000 people), both the isolated (to support) and the active (as volunteers)
- Adults (18+) living in the area (approx. 74000 people), as volunteers and also as donors to ensure sustainability of the project and create ownership
- Local municipality and social services, to cooperate and create Senior Strategy
- General public of the country, to have our project to serve as a good practice example for other districts and towns

How do you plan to get there?

We already have our processes and training materials ready (and verified by experience) to create autonomous local volunteer communities and train them how to search, support, involve and empower lonely elderly people. We will start by recruitment activities where we build the structure of the team together with the volunteers. Since we are aiming for creating autonomy from the beginning, we coach the team in that way that they take ownership from first phase onwards. Once the initial team is ready they get in touch with local authorities and start communicating their mission to find lonely elderly people and more volunteers to befriend them. We support them with providing communication materials and our expertise. We will guide them to establish regular personal visits, community events (online and offline) and any project which aims to fight isolation of elderly and fits the terms of our Ethical Framework. We provide them a 3-module training and individual/team coaching based on their own needs and situation. We hold workshops on specific topics (such as how to handle the closeness of end of life; dementia; elderly abuse; keeping limits as a volunteer) and provide mini-grants to the groups to organize their own local projects/events. Finally we establish the charta and plan of action together with volunteers and elderly members and celebrate!

What are the expected results?

To be more actice citizen you need to have the trust that your voice is heard and your opinion counts. We build back the broken trust by generating friendships which help on individual level to feel important. On community level by encouraging joint actions both the volunteers and the elderly realise that they can have influence on decisions. By communicating the involvement of senior people we expect to direct the attention to the immense treasure and experience and unique personality these people have regardless their background or social status. As a result of the project the local government will start to develop a Senior Strategy in cooperation with volunteers and the elderly themselves in order to solve this social challenge on the long term.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

The elderly people are generally invisible in nowadays’ society. They do not count as consumer, they are neglected as their life ’soon ends so why to invest in them’. Today’s hungarian elderly grew up in a society where speaking up was not tolerated. Our project aims to empower them and the volunteers by making them experience a trustful friendship. Together with the volunteers and seniors, we analyze the local context (structure of local institutions; cycle of local decision making); encourage them to get in touch with the municipality themselves; map the current situation and issues and create an action plan. In this way both older and younger adults realise where and how to turn with their questions and initiatives. This builds a solid basis for further civic engagement on any topic.

Why is this idea important to you?

We work on fostering the culture of volunteering and active citizenship since 2002 and we develop senior volunteering since more than 10 years. We support isolated elderly since 5 years in Budapest and we have active cooperation with social services and municipalities. We would like to expand this activity to the countryside to districts with high number of elderly people. In our Senior Volunteering Club we have members from Érd, and the programme director of Friends of the Elderly comes from this town too. Therefore we have personal experience on what was and what is the situation in this district. We would like to step out of the capital with the help of this grant which we believe will be a catalyst for change around the county.

€ 34500,-

Total budget

€ 34500,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Project management and coordination (personnel cost): 21500 EUR
Educational activities (all costs of trainings, workshops, guidelines incl. trainers fee and preparation of materials): 6000 EUR
Community activities (incl. gifts to elderly for eg. Easter and 1000 EUR for mini grants): 2500 EUR
Communication costs (incl. offline and online campaign): 4000 EUR
Office and IT costs: 500 EUR

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

Thank you for your interest in our idea! We would be happy to receive feedback from you! How is the loneliness of elderly people addressed in your country? Is long term volunteering common in your home town?



Idea created on April 25, 2021
Last edit on April 25, 2021

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