Łódź pandemic initiative for elderly praised as ‘a model for the future’ by World Health Organisation
Łódź has been singled out by the World Health Organisation as a case study for how to help older people affected by the pandemic.
They city came in for praise after launching its City Volunteer Service for Senior Citizens at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when the closure of 19 day-care centres for the elderly left many with limited mobility, without adequate support networks and unable to access many of the services they needed or fulfil their basic needs such as hot meals and medicines.
Co-ordinated by citizens who couldn’t do their usual work due to the pandemic, the City Volunteer Service was made easily accessible to all elderly people, allowing them to request the help of volunteers whilst enabling them to stay at home and not risk their health.
By June 2020, 170 volunteers were signed up to the scheme, catering to the needs of 485 citizens across the city, 65 of whom were in continual contact with volunteer case managers who coordinated the send out of volunteers to requested locations.
Jointly, 20,000 hot meals have been delivered by volunteers since the scheme launched and volunteers have also carried out tasks like shopping, collecting prescriptions and taking dogs for a walk.
A helpline was also launched through which older people could get support, including psychological and legal support.
The scheme’s success was proved by no cases of Covid-19 reported among the older people being cared for by volunteers and the fact that many older people praised the action by calling and writing letters to the City of Łódź and the city’s Mayor.
Hanna Zdanowska, Mayor of the City of Łódź said: “As a society we did a great job with the municipal volunteering programme for seniors, for people who are most exposed to COVID-19.
“This initiative united and mobilized everyone to act for a common cause and integrated so many people of good will. I am proud of the civic attitude of the citizens of Łódź, which is confirmation of the energy and real strength that our community has.
“In a very difficult time of isolation, it was important that there was someone to call.”
Hoping to build on the success of the City Volunteering Scheme and citizens’ eagerness to help one another, the city now hopes to extend the volunteering scheme beyond the pandemic and is currently in consultations to expand it beyond solely help to seniors and plans to collaborate with NGOs.
Agnieszka Rutkowska, press officer for president of the City of Łódź said: “The City Volunteering scheme showed us how important it is that there is a place to support bottom-up activity in Łódź.
“The city is currently at the stage of conceptualising how the city volunteering scheme will look in the new post-pandemic reality. The volunteering scheme won’t just be a basis for helping older people, it will be a network connecting different volunteers with various people in need and also animals in need.”
“Thanks to a volunteering programme constructed in this way, anyone who wants to help in whatever way, will be able to reach the best place with their offer and vice versa, those who need the help and are looking for it, will be able to know how to easily and quickly find people who can provide them with the help they need.”
The WHO said the initiative was a an example of good practice and ‘a model for the future’ for other world cities to follow.