It’s better to be in the Club! SCI Poland launches a social campaign dedicated to the empowerment of senior citizens
by SCI Poland
Although seniors are not a homogeneous group, some common problems afflict them. One of them is social isolation. Counteracting this phenomenon is the main goal of the campaign prepared by our Association. The campaign, which began on September 20 under the slogan “W Klubie raźniej” (“It’s better to be in the Club”), is intended to encourage people active in seniors’ associations and clubs to become their ambassadors in their local communities.
Population aging is a global challenge that Poznań — the city where we reside — is also facing. According to Statistics Poland, by the end of 2021, women aged 60+ and men aged 65+ will already account for more than ¼ of the total population living in the capital of Greater Poland. Out of concern for their well-being, measures are being taken in various areas, from increasing the city’s architectural accessibility to establishing institutions to help the elderly.
Among the objectives of the Senior Policy of the City of Poznań for 2017-2022, there is also no lack of goals related to the formation of awareness and attitudes. Strengthening the potential of the elderly, taking advantage of their experience, or creating a positive image of old age are tasks in which the third sector can particularly well engage.
Since its inception, our Association has been working on fighting social exclusion, in favor of equality. The idea for a campaign dedicated to activating elders was born during one of our initiatives this year – the School of Solutions Journalism. Those participating in this series of workshops for aspiring journalists jointly decided that the campaign they co-created would be about social activism for seniors.
Further work on the campaign was carried out with the support of external partners — the Poznan Center for Senior Initiatives, the “KREAKTYWATOR” Foundation, as well as senior citizen clubs: the “Zorza” Club, a branch of the Complex of Day Care Homes “Gardens”, the “Niezły Młyn” Club and the “Fyrtel Seniora” Club. There are more than 80 similar groups in Poznań. Considering the perspective of the people involved in them was the basic premise of the work on the campaign.
In the course of our work, we conducted focus and individual interviews with members of senior citizen clubs, as well as people who coordinate their activities. This allowed us to correct our initial assumptions and take a broader look at the daily life of active senior citizens.
These examinations revealed how strongly senior clubs contribute to the social activation of the elderly. Their offerings are extremely rich and varied. Members of the clubs stressed that they offer something for everyone, regardless of the level of physical fitness or interests. Examples of activities included knitting or memory training, which is more stereotypically associated with senior age, but also less conventional ones — bowling, bridge lessons, and yoga. Senior citizen clubs also organize trips around Poland and group outings to cinemas or museums. Dance evenings are also important. “Seniors want to have fun, enjoy life, not just grieve,” emphasized interview participants.
Seniors also paid attention to the very possibility of meeting and networking. “We need to come here to gossip, argue even, relieve tension,” they said during the interviews. These social interactions took on particular importance after the pandemic shutdown. According to an April 2021 report by the Senior Policy Institute, nearly half of the elderly reduced social relationships during the first year of the pandemic. Attending club meetings is an opportunity to rebuild them.
At the same time, however, interviewees pointed to the problem of the bad reputation of associations of the elderly, even among themselves. They stressed that there is still a strong stereotypical image of senior citizen clubs as lifeless, depressing places, which discourages participation in their meetings. This situation seems to be improving, however, there is still untapped potential in senior citizen clubs for activating the elderly.
The campaign prepared by our Association encourages people to join these organizations. Its protagonists are members of clubs who have managed to draw people from their surroundings into them. This is because participants in the interviews pointed out that it is they, active seniors, who can most easily encourage others to take on new challenges. By exemplifying the benefits of living actively into old age, they can reach out to those around them better than younger people.
The campaign “W Klubie raźniej” (“It’s better to be in the Club”) presents three short stories about how their heroes and heroines were drawn into activities in senior citizen clubs. Their motivations varied — a passion for bridge or love of singing. In each case, however, the decisive factor that influenced the decision to join the club turned out to be encouragement from a senior acquaintance.
The campaign is part of the project “It Works. Good solutions for anti-discrimination”. The project is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway from the EEA Funds under the Active Citizens – Regional Fund Program.
Thank you SCI Poland team for this article and Paweł Liszkowski for the photographs.