Seniors to have new walking buddies in Abu Dhabi
Some 65 young volunteers in Abu Dhabi will take a morning walk with a group of 30 senior community members.- KT file photo
Abu Dhabi - In Abu Dhabi, there are about 20,000 locals and 30,000 expats who are aged 60 and above.
Senior citizens have been found to be among the 'loneliest, most depressed' people in Abu Dhabi. So, on World Senior Citizen's Day, a government authority launched an initiative that could lift their spirits.
Ma'an Authority for Social Contribution on Wednesday introduced a community engagement programme called 'Journey of Generations', which targets to improve the physical and mental well-being of those aged 60 and above.
Through this programme, some 65 young volunteers in Abu Dhabi will take a morning walk with a group of 30 senior community members. The event will be launched in the second week of September at Yas Mall.
Salama Al Ameemi, director-general of Ma'an, underlined that with people's lifestyles today, everyone in a family becomes too busy that senior members often get neglected. But with the 'Journey of Generations' initiative, a volunteer can take care of a senior citizen.
"Based on the Better Life Index study conducted by the Department of Community Development, it was found that following people of determination, it was senior citizens who felt the loneliest and most depressed. There's also a big number of diabetes and heart disease patients.
"In Abu Dhabi, there are about 20,000 locals and 30,000 expats who are aged 60 and above," she said.
The pilot programme is the first of five in the pipeline, aiming to build bridges between generations.
"This one deals with physical and emotional aspects. Once a basic relationship is established between a senior citizen and a volunteer, we will move to the next programme that will tackle other conditions," Salama added.
"The seniors will no longer be lonely. Youngsters will learn values and knowledge from elders."
Maysa Al Nowais, community engagement director, said the programme currently covers locals but it will soon be expanded to seniors of other nationalities.
"We are in talks with community groups to build the database of senior citizens of different nationalities."
She said there would be an assessment system to monitor changes in seniors and youngsters before and after the programme.
"We will train volunteers for the programme. We will try to have a pair of volunteer and senior with the same interests and hobbies. This can help develop a relationship between them," Al Nowais said.
Volunteers are recruited by the Emirates Foundation and senior citizens are identified by the Family Development Foundation and the Pension Fund.
"We will then conduct a survey to make an assessment. We will amend and adopt. Soon, this programme will be launched in different parts of the emirate," she added.
"We are one community. Senior citizens did so much for us throughout their lives. It's time for us to give it back to them."
Ma'an was established in February by the Department of Community Development to bring together the government, private sector and civil society to support a culture of social contribution and participation.