The BRC activities carried out for and with older people, are in line with the BRC Platform for working with older people /2009/. By the priorities and activities defined in this Platform, the BRC contributes to the process of social inclusion of older people, providing opportunities for participation in the economic, social and cultural life of the community.
Since 2003 the BRC has been implementing the "Age Awareness and Advocacy of Older People” Project through which it introduced for the first time in Bulgaria the participatory approach in the work with older people making them active participants in the life of their communities, as well as in the discussion and resolution of specific issues of their concern. At the heart of this process lie a series of trainings aiming at empowering older people and providing them with skills and knowledge how to defend their rights.
Over 1,500 active and trained older volunteers took part in various activities which were implemented in 14 regions of Bulgaria - Montana, Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, Lovech, Smolyan, Dobrich, Shumen, Russe, Varna, Targovishte, Gabrovo, Kyustendil, Pleven, and Yambol resulting in an increased awareness about the problems older people face in their everyday life, but also emphasizing their role as a valuable resource to the community in terms of knowledge and skills. Over the past 12 years the BRC, together with representatives of local authorities, partner organizations and NGOs, organised numerous roundtables and thematic meetings on various topics in order to solve specific problems locally, e.g. inaccessible public transport and urban infrastructure, more efficient use of existing social services, improving the life of the most vulnerable groups in the community, etc.
Below are listed some good practices that are performed on a regular basis by the elderly volunteers in the regions listed above:
- Home visits to sick and lonely older people. During these visits the elderly volunteers provide assistance and support for a variety of daily activities such as accompanying them to the doctor or the pharmacy, shopping and walking out. In the homes of the beneficiaries they have conversations together, read some literature, celebrate personal holidays.
- Visits to specialized institutions for older people, where the elderly volunteers perform holiday programs on the occasion of national and religious holidays;
- Assistance in the provision of food in public soup-kitchens; active participation in fundraising campaigns under the "Food Bank" Program; distribution of humanitarian aid at the social parlours of the BRC;
- Organising activities designed to promote active and healthy aging. Monthly health meetings with specialist physicians on current and preferred by the older people topics;
- Various activities for children deprived of parental care. These activities are aimed at strengthening the link between the generations and providing education in moral norms and habits to the children for easier and better adaptation to life outside institutions. Various activities are carried out through which older volunteers transfer their knowledge, skills and experience to the children;
- Visits to Nursing Homes for older people with moderate mental retardation and participation in occupational therapy activities, literary activities, and conversations with the patients;
In four districts of the country - Plovdiv, Vratsa, Dobrich and Blagoevgrad, a project called "Older volunteers assist children from social institutions – Grandma and Grandpa for the Children" was implemented. Elderly BRC volunteers provided assistance and support to children in social institutions. The volunteers transferred their experience, knowledge and skills to the children who had not been able to communicate with grandparents. Various activities were organized to study the Bulgarian customs and traditions and to create stable emotional links between the generations. 54 older volunteers worked with 139 children from 6 social homes from those regions.
The Bulgarian Red Cross was a partner in the "Older women in Europe" Project, which involved cooperation with NGOs from Austria, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. A comparative study of the lifestyle of elderly women in different countries in Europe was carried out. The biographies of the group members were presented in a creative way. The idea was to help women 50+ to learn how to use the modern means of communication and information exchange. During the project workshops were conducted in the partner countries - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy and Germany. In the meetings were actively involved 12 older volunteers from Bulgaria who had the opportunity to exchange ideas for future activities with volunteers from other countries.
Since 2009 the Bulgarian Red Cross is a full member of AGE Platform Europe and is recognized as an organization actively working for the benefit of older people among its partners in Europe.The BRC is also a member of an international network of NGOs working on the issues of the elderly called SEVEN. These memberships give us the opportunity to exchange experiences and best practices in the work related to older people with partners from across Europe as well as to implement joint projects with them.
One of the projects implemented within SEVEN was "Older volunteers provide social services" under GRUNDTVIG, which main objectives were the exchange of volunteers in the provision of social activities, and learning about the mechanisms of coordination and training of senior volunteers in Austria and Bulgaria. The Project helped to improve the cultural and linguistic knowledge of the participants, their personal development and encouraged the expansion of voluntary activities in the provision of social services in the two countries. A total of 16 elderly volunteers took active part in the Project and the two national Red Cross societies have produced documentaries of the activities carried out.
The Bulgarian Red Cross acts as a catalyst in the process of learning and implementation of the activities that older people do for the benefit of the whole society. By promoting the relations between the elderly and the representatives of the central and local authorities the BRC contributes to overcoming of the barriers preventing older people from leading active and dignified life. The BRC performs its role by lobbying for policies to improve the quality of life of the elderly at national and international level.