Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the papal vicar of Rome who spent 10 days in a…
Rome diocese reports on elderly volunteers helping their peers
ROME (CNS) — In 13 parishes in the Diocese of Rome, 280 volunteers over the age of 65 dedicate part of their week to visiting their older peers, helping them with shopping and getting them to doctors’ appointments as well as helping with the liturgies and religious education classes at the parish.
In preparation for the celebration July 25 of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, the Diocese of Rome and Rome Caritas published a 64-page report on their “Solidarity Neighborhoods” project, which began in 2011 to recruit and train older volunteers to identify the needs of elders in their neighborhoods and to respond.
The vast majority of the volunteers, 81%, are women; 66% of them are over the age of 75; and 49% of them live alone.
The report noted that more than 7 million Italians, 11% of the population, are over the age of 75. In Rome, there are 5.2 people over the age of 65 for every child under the age of 6, and in the city center the ratio climbs to 7:1.
The Solidarity Neighborhoods project was designed not simply to help the elderly in need of care, the diocese said, but also to rally the resources of the city’s older citizens, get them involved in civic and parish service and build social ties.
For two weeks in June, volunteers interviewed a representative group of 87 of the people assisted by the project: 33% are 65-75 years old; 50.6% are 76-85 years old; and 16.1% are over the age of 85.
Just over half of those interviewed are widowed, while almost 38% are married or living with another person, such as a full-time caregiver.
Most of the people involved in the project, 81.6%, regularly spent time at the parish or a local senior citizens center, but only 48.3% of those interviewed said they had been back since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. But 81.6% said they were able to count on a social-support network during the pandemic.
The survey also found that 70% of the people assisted by the project in turn helped someone else during the pandemic: 30% said they helped a family member; 24.1% said they helped a member of the parish; and 27.5% said they helped a friend or neighbor. The help ranged from babysitting to phone calls and from shopping to donating food to someone in need.