A ray of light for the elderly and the lonely

Senior citizens enjoy the coffee morning at the drop-in centre in Los Boliches.
Senior citizens enjoy the coffee morning at the drop-in centre in Los Boliches. / TONY BRYANT
  • The group was formed in 2014 by a small group of devotees who recognised that there was a need to help older expats living in the area

  • Age Concern Fuengirola-Mijas is a non-profit-making organisation staffed entirely by volunteers

The Costa del Sol has long been the destination for retired Brits eager to while away their golden years in the sun.

Spain remains a relatively cheap place to live and will offer retirees a good standard of living for their money.

However, this idyllic lifestyle in the sun is often shattered when a loved one dies, leaving a grieving partner feeling confused, lonely and unable to cope alone.

The sun, sea and tapas bars only mask the problem and those left behind often withdraw into a life of loneliness; their only companions are characters in their favourite soap operas and television shows.

The Costa del Sol offers several organisations that cater for the needs of retired expats.

One of these is Age Concern Fuengirola-Mijas, a registered, non-profit making association staffed entirely by volunteers.

The organisation which, along with its sister group in Estepona and Manilva is part of Age Concern España, was formed in 2014 by a small group of devotees who recognised that there was a need to help older expats living in the area.

Age Concern Fuengirola-Mijas is primarily concerned with the local expatriate community and its well-being.

It favours integration with the Spanish way of life as befits foreigners living in a host country.

The charity offers a variety of services, including a lifeline for lonely or isolated people, care equipment that can be borrowed on a short term basis and social activities that bring people together.

“Age Concern is first and foremost an extended family and family look out for each other. Our three drop-in centres are more like family gatherings,” explains secretary, Steve Marshall.

Steve, who has been with the charity since its inception, told SUR in English that one of the biggest problems for expat pensioners on the coast is loneliness.

“We can't sort out the problems of the world, but we can make inroads into fighting the scourge of loneliness that affects members of our family.

We also know that there are many expats who have yet to find us and are putting up with this debilitating situation in silence,” Steve says.

Joyce, who lives in Torreblanca, was introduced to the Age Concern last year and she now receives help with her hospital visits and her weekly shopping.

“It's not easy when you're getting older and have health issues, but I feel safe and secure with Age Concern behind me,” Joyce declares.

Drop-in centres

Weekly coffee mornings are held in the three drop-in centres and these offer senior citizens a chance to enjoy a social gathering with bingo, quizzes and raffles, but most of all, they offer a warm and friendly ambience to anyone who wants to take part.

Martin and his wife now live in Los Boliches, having recently moved from Mijas Pueblo, and they went to Age Concern in order to make new friends.

“We feel part of a family and have nothing but praise for the volunteers and organised events. I don't know how we would have coped without them,” explains Martin.

Deputy president David Long stressed that senior citizens of any nationality can attend the meetings and use the services they offer.

“We offer people who are in their later years the chance to socialise and meet like-minded people.

There is no annual fee or membership; anyone is welcome to come along to see what we do,” David declares enthusiastically.

David is responsible for the day-to-day running of the charity, which includes overseeing the three drop-in centres.

Charity shop

Steve is in control of the Age Concern charity shop, which is located in Calle Francisco Cano, 56, in Los Boliches, and visitors can call in to browse or just for a chat.

The shop is managed by a group of six volunteers, and each runs the shop for one day a week.

It stocks clothes, household goods, books and furniture and offers a collection and delivery service for larger items.

The organisation also offers a professional welfare team who are always on hand to provide advice and support, either in person or through their lifeline.

The lifeline is open weekdays from 10am until 5pm, and between 10am and midday on Saturday. There is also an out-of-hours message service.

“Of course it would be a utopian world if everyone looked out for each other, but with the pressures of modern life, that just isn't going to happen.

Truth be told, I think most of the volunteers get as much, or even more, out of the charity than our clients. I know that David and I count ourselves in that group,” Steve concludes contentedly.