What is a group for self-help ?

Groups for self-help of the elderly represent a new social model for improving the quality of life of the elderly, based on volunteering and the power of association of the elderly themselves.

The group for self-help consists of 10 elderly people who have established social contact and provide mutual help and support.

The groups are formed both in urban and rural areas.

Activities of the groups for self-help:
- Providing direct help to the groups members
- Combating social isolation of the elderly
- Advocating and lobbying for solutions of the problems of the elderly
- Establishing dialogue and contact with representatives of local authorities and institutions
- Implementation of the activities
- Establishing links to other groups for self-help
- Psychological support among the members of the group – socializing and recreational activities ( daytrips and celebrations )
- Contribution to the decrease in age discrimination.

General objectives of the groups for self-help: The elderly become an active subject in solving the problems of the local community; Improving living conditions of the elderly with their self-involvement.

Why? The elderly themselves can most appropriately recognize their needs and problems. The elderly possess an abundance of knowledge, skills and experiences. The elderly organized in groups for self-help possess the strength to make a change in local community. The existing local institutions do not possess enough capacities to provide a high-quality service to the elderly.

Groups for self-help of the elderly represent a strength in a local community, because they indicate to problems and endeavor solving them through dialogue and action with local authorities.

The structure of groups for self-help: - Mentor - The leader of the group - Members of the group Each mentor has 5 group leaders, while each leader has a group consisting of 10 members.

Work of the groups is coordinated by mentors.

Dynamics of the self-help groups activities: The group members hold meetings once a week and pay visits to members which are unable to participate in group meetings. Group leaders are in daily contact with members of the group via telephone.

Problems of the groups for self-help:

- Traditional attitude of the community is that the elderly should be passive
- Insufficient motivation of the elderly for participating in groups
- Physical barriers, particularly in rural areas
- Non-existence of  adequate premises for work of groups
- Insufficient funds for group activities
- Difficult communication with representatives of local authorities and institutions
- Insufficient interest of the media to cover activities of groups for self-help

How do we overcome obstacles? - Activities of the groups for self-help are transparent in the local community - Organized planned access to local authorities and institutions - Advocating and lobbying - If the group does not possess the required capacities for solving the problems, voluntary professional consulting help is hired ) - Promoting self-help groups among the target group

Positive examples: - The accessibility of public transport - Providing available seats in public transport and public institutions - The groups members provide mutual help with medications and food acquisition and utility bill payment - Establishment of clubs for socializing of the elderly - Intergenerational cooperation

Conclusion: Results of group for self-help work have brought on a change in consciousness of people of the necessity of involving the elderly in the activities of the local community. Institutions have better recognition of the needs of the elderly and organize activities to meet those needs. The elderly contribute overcoming stereotypical opinion that the elderly should be inactive by personal example – participation in groups for self-help.