5 Questions for Project Coordinator Tugdual Derville
Where did the idea for this campaign originate?
From the 2003 heatwave! That summer, when we saw the dramatic mortality rates for the elderly, Alliance VITA carried out an in-depth survey by interviewing several hundreds of individuals. We realized that small, almost innocuous acts, could fulfil a person’s profound needs: that of feeling connected to those they care for, through a short visit, a phone call or even…a personal letter.
At that time the pressure for euthanasia was omnipresent, as it is now, and we had already realized that we need to fight against “dying socially”, the fundamental reason for losing heart. This survey was the starting point for launching our SOS end-of-life service.
For the past year, the elderly, in nursing homes (“EHPADs”) but also at home, have been braving yet another tragedy. The pandemic prompted us to carry out another survey and to launch this new campaign which resonates along the lines of the first one.
What have you learned from this new survey?
Due to the sanitary restrictions imposed on us, the lengthy interviews carried out by our volunteers at the end of 2020 with 530 individuals over age 80 may not be a statistically representative sample. Nonetheless, generally speaking, those who normally lead an active social life, atest that their relationships with loved ones are a determining factor for their happiness. They need to keep in contact, by exchanging news, but also by regular updates on current events, in order to feel included in the lives of their loved ones.
One of the most astonishing discoveries was an “intergenerational segregation”, where over half of those responding said that they see children only rarely (27%) or not at all (27%); although they are almost unanimous in saying how important it is for them to have children around them! Some seniors have even told us that they will regularly go to a public garden and sit on a bench simply to “see children” without ever daring to interrelate with those who mind the youngsters. This is heartbreaking!
Why the Slogan “Always Together”?
The slogan has its origin in a cruel observation: in an increasingly fragmented and individualistic society, we live completely separate lives. Rarely do several generations live under the same roof. The pandemic may have brought us closer to some people, but countless others are still isolated because visits are prohibited. We hope to disprove two proverbs: “Out of sight, out of mind” and “No news is good news”. We refute them and claim: “Always together!” and “Some news is good news! »
This pandemic provides an opportunity for each of us to become more aware of what the elderly are experiencing and to make a greater effort. By the simple gesture of sending a postcard with a personal photograph one can say: “You are precious to me and I care for you!”
What results do you expect from this campaign?
First of all, to comfort as many people as possible. To share our personal news with someone is to share part of our life with them. Nowadays we mostly receive administrative letters, so it’s hard to realize how good it feels to receive personal letters. It is a rare and valuable thing that may be treasured indefinitely.
Afterwards, we hope that the first little act of sending a card, will encourage everyone to join the virtuous circle of solidarity with the most vulnerable…
To bring our hearts out of “lockdown”, Alliance VITA wants to foster a cultural environment that celebrates life, starting by focusing on those who are the most vulnerable. If love is not demonstrated in a visible way, then what is the meaning of love?
Initiating positive actions is as important as opposing actions against life.
How is the campaign organized?
You will find out on our website: www.toujoursensemble.fr! Follow simple instructions, and receive a personal code that allows you to create one (and only one) online card to send to an elderly person of your choice, among your loved ones. There is a small fee for the envelope, postage, and routing.
It is thrilling for us to achieve the transformation from digital to “real life”. For once, the screen is “converted” into paper. We will be following this campaign on a daily basis, on social networks, with images, mini-videos, testimonials… If all goes well, millions of people should hear about it. And hopefully thousands will reap the benefits.
By launching this campaign in mid-February, for a month, we are showing that we are determined to do more than send out good (and pious) wishes for the new year! If these lines have persuaded you, I encourage you to take part in this campaign right now, and to spread the word.