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Christmas initiatives for senior citizens in Poland

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Author: Anna Rudzińska, MSc, nutritionist, psychologist

Origin/Affiliation: Department of Internal Medicine and Gerontology, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Kraków, Poland

As the holidays approach, we are reminded of the difficulties that older adults faces during this time. In 2018 in Poland about 10% of people aged 65 and over experienced social isolation, while in the group of elderly aged 75 and over it was over 14%. Furthermore, about 28% of adults aged 65 and over mentioned that they do not have a person they could call a friend. Social isolation can be defined as low intensity or lack of contacts besides those formed inside one’s household. The reduction of the social circle during the course of aging makes old people especially vulnerable to loneliness, which should be considered one of the main risk factors for the development of depression. Running a household on your own with only one pension may be especially hard in times of crisis and rising inflation and it is a well-known fact that older adults often struggle with poverty, and therefore, food insecurity.

As loneliness and poverty remain emerging issues among community-dwelling older adults, local authorities as well as private companies have created Christmas charity initiatives to cover the needs of this specific age group. Below, you can find short descriptions of popular senior-oriented charity initiatives taking place in Poland, that hopefully would inspire people living in other European countries.

  • Święty Mikołaj dla Seniora (Santa for Seniors) is an initiative in which groups of friends, co-workers, classmates, as well as volunteers prepare Christmas presents for older people in assisted-living facilities. Before you choose a person, you can read their “Letters to Santa Claus” on their website. All presents are given on the same day in all the facilities taking part in the initiative.

  • Christmas Eve for the underprivileged is organized in many cities across Poland. Usually, they take place on the 24th of December at noon. Lonely or financially unstable citizens can come to eat a hot meal and meet with other adults in similar situations. They often receive small gifts and may exchange knowledge about available resources.

  • Zupa na Plantach – ‘Planty’ is a park in the centre of Krakow, Poland’s cultural capital. On cold winter days in this park, volunteers hand out hot soup for the homeless and older adults to prevent help them through the cold. At the same time medical services are provided – there is often an ambulance in which medical students and paramedics help to dress wounds often found among homeless individuals.

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