The festive season is upon us once again and many people will be busy preparing to enjoy the holidays with family and friends, whether here on the Costa del Sol, on back in the UK. There is, however, a sector of people that will be dedicating their time to ensuring that those who are left on their own at Christmas are not forgotten, especially the elderly expat community.
One organisation that will be working around the clock to make sure the elderly will not be overlooked is Age Care, the Mijas-based charity association that supports English-speaking senior citizens living in the Malaga province.
Founded in 2001, the Age Care Association is a fully registered, non- profit making organisation staffed entirely by volunteers. The charity began when a group of friends got together to hold a fundraising event to assist older people who needed help and support. Since then, the charity has expanded and now hosts weekly social meetings, as well as offering welfare support, practical information, appointment assistance and translation services.
The organisation also has a second hand shop in Calahonda, which is instrumental in raising the majority of the funds needed to run the charity.
Here on the Costa del Sol, just as in the UK, the issue of acute loneliness and social isolation is one of the biggest challenges facing senior citizens, especially during the festive season. Loneliness due to reduced mobility, the loss of family and friends, or the bereavement of a loved one, are some of the issues that can have a serious impact on the well-being and quality of life of older people. Many older residents also have social care needs, due to hearing or visual impairments and are sometimes confined to their homes.
Age Care claim that it has experienced increasing numbers of older English-speaking people requiring assistance during the past five years. However, it is not always health or mobility problems that need addressing, as Nigel Foster, the organisations Welfare Group Leader, pointed out to SUR in English.
"Age Care can help with many issues by providing care services in the home. Sometimes the simplest of problems can cause the elderly much stress and inconvenience. Even something simple like a power cut or problems with a mobile phone, which is sometimes merely the case of it being switched off, can be a big thing."
Nigel got involved soon after he arrived on the coast in 2016, and he now organises the weekly Benalmádena meeting, as well as providing any type of help or assistance the elderly might need.
"Many of our members have been here for more than 30 years and some have lost their partners, so they don't get many chances to get out and see people, but at least they know that we will be here every week. We can organise transport for medical appointments and arrange interpretation services, but if we come across a situation we are not sure about, we will seek the advice of other organisations," Nigel explains.
Age Care's ultimate objective is to give support in a wide variety of ways to the older English speaking community from Benalmádena to Calahonda. Some of the Age Care volunteers have had careers in nursing, education, psychology, and other caring professions, while others are simply people who wish to help the elderly. The organisation has liaisons with the British Consulate, the Foreigners Department of Mijas, The Royal British Legion Spain South, La Cala Lions Club and several Masonic lodges in the area. The organisation also works in conjunction with the Cudeca Foundation.
Sydney Weldon, who has been president of Age Care for nearly five years, initially began helping in the shop. Today he runs the whole organisation, with the help of his dedicated team of volunteers, and he also employs three private care companies.
"If we receive a call from someone who requires home help, we first send in the care company to give us a written assessment of the situation; we then decide which way we can help," Sydney explains.
Age care holds weekly meetings in Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Coín and Calahonda. The meetings offer the elderly a chance to catch up with friends, enjoy bingo, painting or free Spanish lessons. The organisation also arranges a free Christmas dinner and a summer tea party at the Tamisa Golf Hotel.
"We are always looking for volunteers to help in the shop and at our meetings. We are in particular need of drivers, especially those who can speak a little Spanish. If anyone is interested, then please visit our web site, call in to our shop in Calahonda, or come to one of our coffee mornings," Sydney concludes.