The fact that over 900 retired persons living in Rudo remained alone after their family members left for other cities and countries, inspired the members of the Association of Parents of Four and More Children of Rudo to apply with the project “Aging with Dignity” and receive support via the ReLOaD2 project (Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans) financed by the European Union, and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project goal was to contribute to socialization of persons of the third age in the Municipality of Rudo, to update the existing database and to create realistic opportunities for a humane and continuous support to the living of elderly and sick persons of this municipality. Through the implementation of this project in coordination with the local community, the Association and the Day Care Center have defined the model of support to socially excluded users, in this case people of over 60 years of age.
“We wished to provide and furnish the day care center, a space for gathering and socializing, to give our elderly citizens the opportunity to fill in their time. When the new Day Care Center for elderly persons was opened, each day more and more of them came to this place called “The Pensioners Club“. We received great support from the Mayor and the administrative office of the Municipality of Rudo“, said the President of the Association Gordana Novaković.
The employees of the Association believe that the project activities also convey a message to the children of the members, thus creating opportunities for connecting with each other. The Municipality of Rudo is among the underdeveloped municipalities having a low standard of living and a great brain drain of young population. The Center for Social Work of the Municipality of Rudo is not able to provide full support to elderly persons. The project activities providing help in a humane and heartfelt way to the socially handicapped categories of elderly people were very well received.
The project “Aging with Dignity” implies the advancement of development and greater accessibility to the social protection network, as well as working to reduce social exclusion of elderly persons caused by isolation and lack of required care. Among activities which took place in the Day Care Center, Gordana Novaković mentions birthday parties, board games, decoupage on wooden objects, and many gatherings enjoyed daily by the members of the Center.
„During all five months, regular visits to older persons in remote local communities of the Municipality of Rudo took place. During these visits, the patients’ blood pressure and blood sugar levels were measured. And the permanent value that remains is this this newly equipped space in which we plan to continue our work. At the end of the project, tears of joy in the eyes of the Center users spoke more than words”, said Gordana Novaković.
Dragan Bogdanović, a member and the secretary of the Association of Pensioners, says that after the project ended, many people came to the Club with inquiries about the continuation of activities:
“I believe the project was useful for all of us and our members. We have never had something similar before. The club worked before the corona pandemic as well, but there weren’t as many activities nor visits. It was lively, a lot of people were involved and there was always something happening.“
During the previous project of the Association, named «Service at Home», implemented during the first phase of the ReLOaD project, ten geronto-housewives were trained to work with older persons. One of them is Milanka Pantović, who says that the knowledge she gained during the course was useful to her in the implementation of this project:
“Daily social gatherings took place at the Club. Some women learned to knit, some learned to make decoupage, while we were by their side, serving them coffee or juice, measuring their blood sugar levels or blood pressure if needed. We visited those living in remote places and villages surrounding Rudo who weren’t able to come. They needed help with housework, but also someone to visit them, to sit and talk to them. ”
Project coordinator for the Municipality of Rudo, Jelena Šalipur-Kuzmanović, says that the civil society organizations appreciate the ReLOaD project, and that the position of socially excluded categories has improved through their projects. This is why projects such as this are especially important in smaller communities.
“We are a small municipality facing the problem of old population, while the young population are leaving. According to the last census, the average age is 45, so projects such as these are welcome in our community. Activities for young people are paid much attention, as opposed to the needs of the elderly. The Center attendance shows that project activities influenced positively the quality of life of persons of the third age.“
“Given that a large percentage of the elderly population receive minimal pensions and that many of them have high expenses for medicines, only a few of them can afford any kind of leisure activities. This way, a place for socializing, conversation and quality time is provided.”
“The additional benefit of the project is that it was realized after the corona pandemic, during which, unfortunately, a lot of persons of the third age had become even more isolated. Now, they can leave their homes and have an opportunity to socialize. Another very important aspect are the geronto-housewives, who provided great help for older persons who live alone.“
In the words of Jelena Šalipur-Kuzmanović, the project managed to provide something new for the elderly population in Rudo – quality activities enabling gatherings and socialization.