Lisa Oleskina: “Loneliness is the cause of mental and physical extinction”

About how society’s attitude towards older people is changing, what they need most and why only helping others can feel their own happiness, the director of the charity foundation

"Old age in joy"

Elizabeth Oleskina.

- My first visit to the nursing home happened during folklore practice after the first year of the Faculty of Philology of Moscow State University. The goal was to collect ditties, proverbs, but I was more impressed by the longing on the faces of grandparents, their loneliness, the feeling of being cut off from life. I really wanted to change this. All we, a group of students, then could do is go there to sing songs with a guitar, get to know and talk.

The pleasure of communication was mutual! Then we arrived again, began to write letters, then help ...

From the first trip to the nursing home, we realized that they should not be abandoned. These elderly people have already been abandoned, and if we do the same, we will not just be useless - we will be harmful.

They also understood that there were not enough songs. They began to collect money on beds, mattresses, bedding, wheelchairs. And in order to accept donations and transfer things to institutions, you need to get a legal entity. So in 2011, a charity fund was registered.

Photo from the Archive of Lisa Oleskina

It was difficult to establish processes, raise money - we don’t have an “anchor” sponsor, there are no oligarchs behind us.

In addition, our foundation has enormous obligations (yes, we ourselves took them upon ourselves): we pay salaries to cult workers, nurses for care in nursing homes and at home, coordinators in regions that support older people. We are required to make these payments monthly.

We started with attention and communication, and then we realized that it’s inconvenient for people, for example, without a normal bed, and that convenience is impossible without an employee who will be nearby and will be able to help turn around in this bed, take him out for a walk, take him up legs. They began to hire a nanny. Then they began to work on the employment of older people: the first pottery workshop appeared, household rooms (where people can prepare something for themselves in addition to the official menu), workshops and leisure rooms (people already paint oil paintings), greenhouses on the territory of nursing homes.

I remember well how in the Rzhevsky boarding school, my grandmother, Maria Petrovna, with whom I became friends, approached me and said: "How well you have established everything with us, thank you, but I want one thing - to return to my village Smetanino."

Then we began to look, what help do people have at home. And there are two visits of a social worker a week, an hour and a half, and that’s it! Brings the products. A weakened person, dependent on outside help, with dementia or unable to walk, simply will not survive at home. Then we created our first foster care services.

Some of our home-based services are functioning and are now funded by the fund, some, fortunately, have moved to the state system of social protection.

When we realized what difficulties exist and looked at foreign experience, it became clear that the problems needed to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. So our big project was born in cooperation with the state - the introduction of a long-term care system. This is a comprehensive support of the highest quality of life and human dignity for people who depend on outside help. Work on this system was first our joint pilot project with the state, and now it is part of the national project "Demography".

So now we are working in parallel to change the entire help system "from above", and we are helping here and now. Both of these areas of work are priority and cannot exist without each other.

Photo from the archive of Lisa Oleskina

The World Health Organization now calls loneliness the main threat to older people, and it is worse than oncology, mental illness and poverty.

Loneliness is the cause of mental and physical extinction. There is no cure for this disease in any country in the world, in any hospital or nursing home.

Therefore, older people do not have enough of us - our concern. Many suffer from loneliness in their apartment - we hope that we can change the system so as to help them.

Photo from the archive of the Old Age in Joy fund

My personal motivation and of so many other volunteers is to find or add meaning to your life. There is no greater pleasure than giving someone joy and support.

Those who came to us rarely leave for good.

People may not travel to nursing homes, but remain our like-minded people, ambassadors and friends. These are very different people: children in kindergarten who made crafts for the elderly, or pensioners who donate even from their pension. Most of all, of course, young people, students and middle-aged people.

Unfortunately, the last couple of years I have not been able to play grandparents on the accordion. All weekdays are so densely occupied with trips that on weekends I rarely go to boarding schools as a volunteer.

But for me the greatest joy is sitting in an embrace with grandmothers and singing "Old Maple". Even when other volunteers are playing now.

Photo from the archive of the Old Age in Joy fund

It is very noticeable how the attitude of society towards older people is changing. From the question "Why are you helping them, will they die?" to the question "How can I help, for example, if I do not have money, but have free time, or am I ready to carry something by car / I know languages ​​/ am I a lawyer?" Help is very different.

Now people understand that when we think about the elderly, we are not really thinking about the past, but about the future - our own, our loved ones and our children.

Travel gives the most strength to the regions, when I see how the life of older people is changing, and I see those who are eager to help. These are directors of institutions, and nannies, and volunteers, and sometimes ministers and deputy governors. At any level ...

The main thing is that everything really changes. In nursing homes, where before everyone silently lay on their bunks, in the corridors it became crowded and noisy, people walk, talk, ask for something completely different - not to bring diapers, for example, but hair dye. It’s great joy when someone who could die after a stroke learns to walk again.

The biggest fear is not having time to help those whose trouble you already see, the most difficult is responsibility. We have a credit of trust - and it’s scary not to justify it, not to have time to fully help those who are waiting for our help.

Photo from the archive of Lisa Oleskina

Old age in joy is the name of our foundation, and if we didn’t believe it at all, we wouldn’t be like that called. We really want the state and relatives to give the maximum quality of life that is possible to a person. But, of course, self-awareness depends not so much on the country and external circumstances, not even on health, but on the person himself. I was very friendly with an elderly woman, blind Lidia Nikolaevna in the Pervomaisk boarding house in the Tula region. She just lay, could not sit and walk herself.

But she told me how happy she was, how happy she was every day: the sunbeam on her face, the voices of her nannies, how she thanks God for every day of her life. We would all learn to be so grateful.

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