Ms. Semka Zaimović from Kakanj is 73 years old and said that it was very satisfying for her to come to the workshops organized by the Kakanj Red Cross through the project “Old age is not a weakness”, supported by the program “Enable and Embrace Beneficial Civil Society Environment” (EMBRACE) financed by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway, and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
“I joined the workshops that enriched me and I would like for every environment to have something like this – both rural and urban ones, because this is a useful education for both women and men, where we can learn more about the whole life at this age. We had fitness, various exercises, we did handicrafts, on foil, decoupage…, which is extremely restful for our age and expands our horizons, not to mention socializing. I have to praise the educators who have dedicated themselves to us elders, and that means a lot to us,” said Ms. Semka, adding that she would love such gatherings to continue:
“We need our society to show more interest towards the elderly. I have family around me, and what about people who don’t have their families around or whose children are abroad? The neighborhood got so estranged during the corona times. I want this to be a message to our municipality, to our municipal mayor – to broaden their horizons and extend these gatherings and to also extend them to rural areas. We have a lot of senile people, sick people, for whom this sort of thing is unavailable. When someone is locked up within four walls, it dulls them, and they stop being able to socialize. When you have an activity, you have an obligation to get dressed and get out. There are a lot more of us locked up in apartments and houses, and they need to be reached. Everyone should be activated, not only the Red Cross, but also the entire community in the area of Kakanj”, she concluded.
Project Coordinator, Ms. Fazila Ahmetović, said that they had responded to the public call of the project “Enable and Embrace Beneficial Civil Society Environment” (EMBRACE) because they had believed that the project “Old age is not a weakness” – focused on the specific needs of the elderly, and that it would be recognized as a project of great importance for the local community:
“No one in our local environment works with this population in this way. Persons of the third age are only approached when a critical case occurs, and the competent services providing their services are then activated. However, the elderly are not just ill, in a state of social need etc., to approach them in that way. They also need to be provided with a different approach, proactive and involving them in social flows because they still have something to offer the local community, and they also have the strength and will to learn new things. The EMBRACE project was an adequate response to the needs of this population,” said Ms. Fazila Ahmetovic, adding that the project was welcomed with approval in the local community, and that the user response was very good:
“We implemented a series of activities that could be grouped into three categories: Educational – psychological support workshops in groups, first aid workshops, self-help workshops in crisis situations and corrective gymnastics workshops; creative – painting on aluminum foil, making knitted/crocheted toys, decoupage-painting of canvas made bags and activities of volunteer contribution of users to the local community – planting flowers, decoration trees and fruits during the celebration of Planet Earth Day, and preparation of cakes for users of public kitchen and other services that helped old people a lot during the pandemic, with which they now helped as a form of gratitude,” added Ms. Fazila, emphasizing that participation in the project activities had a relaxing effect for her personally:
“This is something new, something different. Working with the elderly on such projects is a pleasure for me because they are very responsible, friendly, show a high degree of enthusiasm regardless of age and have so much life energy and eagerness that sometimes they even shame younger people. Watching them learn new creative techniques at that age, selflessly investing their work and contributing to the local community, makes you think you’d want to be like that when you get older. They justify the name of the project “Old age is not weakness” in the true sense of the word. And it is not a weakness for the one who still wants and likes to participate in social life.”
During the project, Ms. Emina Karzić, an educator, conducted drawing and painting on canvas workshops, and said that she was pleased with the interest of beneficiaries, as well as the final results:
“With all the necessary advice on my part and the motivation I gave them, and the ability to use their imagination when using colors, we got incredible painted motifs. The final paintings reflected their characters and the emotions they carried in them, and each painting was a story about themselves. At the first workshop, they were already asking for more. They were looking for information on the type of paint, the canvas, how to get a template… By doing so, I felt that the workshop had achieved the desired effect and helped them to think creatively,” she said, adding that this type of educational gathering was increasingly needed for the older population nowadays:
“Most of them have completed their working life in some company, or have reduced their regular activities, which made their social life poorer, and living communication reduced to a minimum. This project enabled them to realize that they still had the strength, energy and courage to engage in the realization of creative ideas, which certainly contributed to the sense of inner satisfaction, happiness and peace. Many women told me that this is a therapy they like to use. If I was going to ignite their energy, it came back to me with the same force. Observing them as children immersed in the world of color, I was filled with an inner sense of satisfaction and additional inspiration for work”.
The workshops were also attended by Ms. Nevzeta Bajtarević (83) and Ms. Rajka Živanić (65), who, in addition to all the above, especially emphasized the importance of the socialization they had through the implemented activities:
“I carry beautiful impressions from the workshops. We all had a great time. I’ve also worked at home for many years knitting, doing crochet, embroidery, and we’ve done a lot here. Whatever I do feels good, as I don’t like sitting idle. I don’t know what to do with myself if I don’t do something. Now I am alone. When my husband was with me, we went to the coast, on trips…, and now I try to organize my life and things like these gatherings and workshops are great for me”, said Nevzeta, while Rajka added that the workshops served as a “release valve” for her: “This socializing means a lot to me because I have a husband at home who is sick and a daughter who has difficulties, so I get some rest and relaxation here with the other women. The thing I liked the most was crochet covers for preterm babies where I made my big contribution and did about 50 of them. Thank you for allowing us to have such a great time.”
Project coordinator, Ms. Fazila underlined that everything they had learned through the project, would be used by beneficiaries in everyday life:
“I mean both the educational workshops they went through and everything they learned during the project: how to protect themselves in crisis situations, how to provide first aid, how to relieve the psychological burden…, but also how to express themselves creatively. Some of the users have never had the opportunity to show their creativity, and they were provided with this opportunity through the project and enjoyed it,” she said, and added that the positive atmosphere of the project was spreading in the local community:
“We get new people of the third age every day getting involved in such activities. On the other hand, the families of beneficiaries have seen that they are much more satisfied since they got involved in the project. That is because they have a space and a place where they feel nice and comfortable with their peers, a place where they socialize, learn something new, rejoice and enjoy. Considering that certain equipment was purchased through the project, it will be much easier to continue such activities even after the completion of the project, because we have a nicely-developed space. We hope that the local community will also have understanding to continue such activities, and we have certain promises from the local administration to support us to a certain extent, at least to maintain the continuity of such activities that have proved more than necessary in a local environment such as the Kakanj municipality,” concluded Ms. Fazila Ahmetović.
The project “Enable and Embrace Beneficial Civil Society Environment” (EMBRACE) was financed by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway in the amount of USD 880,000 and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with the aim of strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) to improve the quality of services provided to citizens and citizens in local communities.