Seniors for Seniors is a program designed by the Slovenian Pensioners Association. It is developed and run by elderly for elderly in order to enable them to stay living in their homes, in a familiar environment for as long as possible with organized help.
About Seniors for seniors
Slovenian seniors prefer to stay in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. Moving to a retirement home is often a last resort solution when their family is no longer able to provide them with the needed help and support. The program was designed and is run by retired professionals (social workers, sociologists) and two employed professionals at the Pensioners Association of Slovenia (ZDUS) with the intention of assuring the elderly can stay in the comfort of their own homes even after their families are not able to help them anymore.
The program is implemented exclusively within Pensioners’ Associations (PAs) throughout Slovenia. 507 PAs are divided into 13 regional Associations of which each has 1 regional coordinator. Every Pensioners Association has their own coordinator who is responsible for project management and communication with volunteers. They report to regional coordinators. The program is highly dependent on volunteer work as they are the ones doing the companionship, shopping, driving, making calls and home visits.
The main beneficiaries are elderly over the age of 69 who wish to stay living at home but are not completely independent in daily chores or are lonely and need company. The main stakeholders are the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal opportunities (MDDZS), the Foundation for the Financing of Disability and Humanitarian Organisations in the Republic of Slovenia (FIHO), individual municipalities, and donors and Pensioners’’ Associations and volunteers.
Duration of the Good practice
2004 – ongoing
The main institution in charge
Pensioners Association of Slovenia – ZDUS
Črt Kanoni, Public relations and Editor of magazine ZDUSPlus
T: +386 1 62 05 481 or +386 41 696 967
The geographical scope of the Good practice
National, regional and local
Location of the practice
Litija, Zasavska region, Slovenia
The main institution in charge of Zasavska region
Pensioners Association of Litija and Šmartno pri Litiji
Marjana Kolar, Coordinator of the program at Pensioners Association of Litija and Šmartno pri Litiji
T: +386 1 89 83 923
The exact cost depends on the number of at-home visits that the volunteers make and the amount that can be refunded to volunteers per kilometre as well as how active a local Pensioner Association is within the program. In general, you should secure funds for:
- Local coordinator
- Costs of mileage for volunteers
- Training for volunteers
- Insurance policy for volunteers
As for human resources, volunteers are required for the successful implementation of the program, the more there are, the more area you can cover.
Evidence of success
The program has been running continuously since 2004 and includes over 193.000 seniors nationwide (65% of all people over the age of 69) and over 3.500 volunteers nationwide. It started with only 16 PAs and now there are 284 PAs involved. In 2017 the European Parliament awarded the program the European Citizen’s Prize. The program is supported on a national level by funding from the MDDZS, FIHO, individual municipalities, donors and volunteers. It connects local Pensioners Associations with centres for social work, community service and doctors, municipality, police, firefighters and other public institutions to effectively approach various problems of the elderly.
The success of the program lies on the shoulders of volunteers and the organizational skills of each and every participating PA in Slovenia and the willingness of the elderly to participate in the program, both as beneficiaries and volunteers. Despite its success and longevity, the program does not have systemically regulated financing. The financing still depends on the yearly budget and calls for financing. Due to this the funding of the program is not secure and has not expanded for several years.
Potential for learning or transfer
Within the formal (public) network of care and accommodation for the elderly, the state mainly promoted institutional forms of care, so today the network of homes for the elderly in Slovenia is well developed. The network of home services, on the other hand, is more differentiated and also less locally accessible. The situation is similar in most European countries, making this a great practice to transfer to other countries.
The program is designed to change that and it is a great example of help between people from the same community. It is free of charge for users and available also in the afternoon. In the beginning, only 16 PAs were involved in the program but throughout the years the number has grown significantly which shows how important the program is for the elderly. Today 284 PAs are involved in the program.
In the scope of the program, an app called BOPRO was developed to help register people covered by the program and individual activities of volunteers. The app is also used to keep statistical information for individual PAs which is also the basis for determining the number of funds allocated to the Pensioners Association of Slovenia for the implementation of the program each year.
How to start?
In Slovenia, the program is funded through yearly open calls from MDDZS and FIHO which together contribute two-thirds of the required funds.
For a third of the costs, PAs have to cover themselves, they are trying to secure funding from donors and sponsors as well as individual Municipalities. For the program in Slovenia, the budget is mostly used for travel expenses and volunteer insurance.
The purpose of the program entails quite a few demands that volunteers of the program cannot solve on their own.
In order to ensure the best possible quality of care service provided to the elderly at home, it is, therefore, crucial to connect with institutions such as:
- Centres for Social Work
- Health service providers and Health visiting service
- Police and firefighters
- Red Cross, Caritas,
- Social Services,
- Retirement Homes…
To be able to provide the services that would answer the specific needs of the elderly in their area the PAs prepare a survey for the users. The survey included questions about the home conditions, the health status of the elderly, their activities and their mental state.
In the survey elderly also indicate what type of help they already receive from family, friends, neighbours or official institutions. They convey what they would like from the volunteers who will visit them – conversation, help with household chores, transportation to the store and back, etc.
Volunteers use the survey to better prepare for their work with each individual elderly user of the program services. With the questionnaire, they determine the quality of living, the need for help, the personal well-being of the user and how users like to spend their free time.
Enlisting volunteers and users
PAs have an application form for both volunteers and beneficiaries. The application form serves to acquire required permissions from volunteers to gather and use their contact information as well as keep it in their database. By filling in the application form they also agree to participate in the program. After they apply, volunteers are interviewed to determine if they are suitable for this type of volunteer work. A volunteering contract is signed between the Pensioners Association and the suitable volunteers.
Municipality and/or other institutions can help acquire the list of potential users. Volunteers are also great at finding the people in the local community who need help the most, even those who are ashamed to ask for help or do not know how to help themselves.
Education plays a very important role in the program. ZDUS conducts training for all their volunteers every year, choosing topics that are important for their volunteer work and at the same time for the personal growth of their volunteers. Topics of education are interpersonal relationships, communication, personality characteristics recognition, available help and support networks, recruiting and guiding volunteers, motivation for volunteering, recognizing violence and abuse against the elderly, conflict resolution, dementia, networking and relationship development, etc.
Volunteers are also educated in the field of informatics as each association records all the services of volunteers in a special web application in which it also enters the answers from the questionnaires.
Database of volunteers, users and activities
The program Seniors for Seniors requires the use of a database to keep track of various information required for successful implementation. An app called BOPRO was developed in the scope of the project to help track all the important data. The collected data is important as it is used as a basis for determining the number of funds allocated to the Pensioners Association of Slovenia for the implementation of the program each year.
The database application is used for keeping information on:
Volunteers (contact information, knowledge and skills, volunteer hours, number of visits implemented, distance travelled and travel expenses, …)
Users (contact information, their needs, special requirements, health status, living conditions, mental state, …)
Visits (how many visits were implemented by how many volunteers, in which local communities, observations from the visits, …)
The help needed by users (what kind of help is needed by the users – help with work around the home, companionship, escort to the doctor’s office and after errands, …)
The help received by users