Timchenko Foundation integrates best practices in elderly care

Jul 07, 2020 at 15:07 • Older generation

How is elder care organized across the world? What do the government and society do respectively? The Timchenko Foundation commissioned two surveys on elderly care in the family prior to launching a new grant competition called «The Family Circle». Here are the takeaways.

The first survey, which looked at the facts on the ground in Russia, was conducted by a national group of researchers headed by Irina Grigoryeva, Professor at SPBGU [St Petersburg State University (SPBSU)]. Likewise, Tine Rostgaard, Professor at Stockholm University, examined the European models of care systems.

Specifically, she described five different models for allocation of responsibilities between the state, the market, the volunteer sector and the family. E.g., as part of the one-size-fits-all model widespread in the Scandinavian countries, the government provides a large number of care services, which are quite good and available to all citizens.

In the joint social care model, typical of Austria and Germany, a person in need of care can choose between a cash benefit and services – and most opt for the first. The volunteer sector is well-developed, and major private service providers are affiliated with the church.

In the targeted assistance models (United Kingdom and the USA), entitlement and access to services are based on verification of financial circumstances and asset holding. In those countries, the private sectorlong-term care sector plays a key role, and public services are offered mostly to those who cannot afford private care.

The family model is used in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece. The care objectives in this model are fulfilled by the family, which is even laid down in the law. Families are also entitled to public services and cash benefits, but these are modest.

Finally, countries in Central and Eastern Europe use a minimalistic model. Assistance was traditionally rendered at establishments, and no real progress has been made towards de-institutionalization. And if a senior citizen opts to live at home, he is taken care of by his family – support from the government is minimal.

It would be premature to talk about an elderly care model put in place in Russia, opines Kira Yankelevich, head of the Elderly programme at the Timchenko Foundation. She believes that the government cannot and should not shoulder the entire burden of assistance: there is a gap between the social and medical spheres that can be closed precisely by elderly family care projects.

“Care in the family is an approach that aims to help the senior citizen and his family make living arrangements to enable him to live at home for as long as possible and not move to an assisted living residence. Such a policy is often referred to as aging in place”.

“As the survey has revealed, Russia already has such projects. People intuitively understand that these are needed,” says Yankelevich. “Except for the efforts of the Hesed Abraham Jewish welfare centre, however, they are all small, ’boutique’ outfits”.

These include, for example, the Kind Neighbours project of the St Petersburg-based Dom Proyektov [House of Projects] organization: active third agers helped their handicapped neighbours, dropping in on them, phoning them and doing memory training exercises together.

Another example is the Third Age School in Gatchina, which has been teaching courses for the elderly since 2008. The organizers aim to fire up the elderly, give them back their self-confidence and teach them communication skills. To date, the School has more than 20 clubs (calisthenics, dancing, choir, yoga etc) with some 300 members. Many of them seek to help those who need help even more: for example, the Sudarushki [Ladies] knitting club makes socks and mittens for the homeless.

With its Family Circle competition, the Timchenko Foundation wants to identify the best practices in elderly care in the community and in the family, organize and promote them across Russia. The competition is open to both non-profits and public sector entities or social entrepreneurs that are already working with elderly people. The competition’s grant pool is 15 million roubles; the maximum grant is 150 thousand roubles.

Examples of foreign practices in elderly family care:

The Telephone Rings at 5 (Portugal):a scheme for socializing and brain training for seniors who find it a challenge to venture outside. To be eligible for this free programme, you need to have a phone line. The subjects under discussion vary depending on the day and the volunteer’s experience, and cover current events, culture, health and sports.

The Men in Sheds project (Australia and Ireland): makes it possible for men of all ages to meet in an informal setting of a “shed” and engage together in activities such as woodworking, arts and crafts. Such sheds are set up throughout the country and offer woodworking tools; they are run by volunteers, who host a plethora of events, often centred on design, processing and manufacture. The sheds offer men space to exercise their skills, learn new ones or simply meet over a cup of tea.

To learn more, follow the links and

Get together: communal dinners and volunteer companions (Denmark): twice a year, get-together communal dinners are hosted across Denmark. The dinners are open to people all ages; the main organizer is Dan Age. If you don’t feel like going to such s alone, Dan Age has a volunteer programme called “companions” (gå-med-ven) and can offer a volunteer escort for you. Membership is not required.

Care4Care time bank (United Kingdom):a time bank system that encourages neighbours to take care of elderly people within the local community in exchange for “time credits”. A community coordinator recruits volunteers to work with elderly people who ask for assistance. The locals then provide volunteer help, for example, with purchases driving or personal hygiene etc. Each hour of volunteering is rewarded with a bankable time credit that can be redeemed at a later time to have somebody else take care of the volunteer himself, or alternatively exchange it for care for a family member or relative elsewhere.

Hiking Parties Programme (Italy): is hosted in Lombardy and aims to promote a healthy lifestyle. It offers walks to long-term sufferers of: diabetes, hypertension and psychological/mental disorders. The local authorities support this initiative, and local volunteer organizations provide medically trained and certified volunteers to accompany the hikers. The parties are managed by coordinators, who incentivize the hikers to carry on and promote a congenial atmosphere. Of key importance are general practitioners, who notify their patients of the events and recommend joining them. The elderly are also issued with posters, leaflets and fact sheets describing the benefits of walking. They also give pointers on active living and toll-free numbers of local public health establishments.