By Jelena Sofranac, Montenegro Red Cross

Montenegro is one of the European countries with rapidly aging population: 18 per cent of its 620,000 inhabitants are over the age of 60.

This trend can be attributed to many social factors including decreasing birth rates and migration of youth. Young adults to leave their hometown to find work, and lack time and money to support their parents from abroad. As a result, there’s an increasing number of single elderly people facing solitude, health and financial problems.

The Red Cross of Montenegro has been supporting elderly people for 15 years, involving more than 700 old people from 12 municipalities. Based on this experience, they are now operating three elderly clubs in the cities of Bar, Plav and Cetinje, and opened their first intergenerational centre in Nikšić in 2016.

The main objective is to prevent social isolation and provide a place where older people can meet and share their experiences. Clubs are open once or twice a week for a couple of hours, and programmes are organized by trained youth volunteers.

Jelena Darmanovic Dubak, secretary general of the Montenegro Red Cross, says: “For each session, the coordinator of the club prepares a plan based on the interests and suggestions of participants. The idea is to meet their needs and deal with topics that interest them, but also to make them feel more accepted, active and useful.”

The list of activities ranges from arts and crafts (knitting, fabricating clothes and bags, writing recipes), to lectures (first aid, computer skills, healthy living), visiting exhibitions and celebrating special days.

Never too late to make new friends

The intergenerational centre is special in a way that it brings together young and older members of the community – for instance, primary school students and members of the Association of Veterans for a chess championship. High school and university students are also regular visitors.

“Club members enjoy a lot when they can teach something to the kids, or just tell their stories from the past. On the other hand, they are also eager to listen to them when they talk about new developments like gadgets and social networks,” adds Ms Dubak.

In her younger days, Stevka Vujocevic used to be a Red Cross volunteer – now she is a member of the club.

“I can smile because of someone else’s support, and I feel that not everything is about gaining profit and wealth. Red Cross volunteers prove that because when they ask me how I feel I know that someone is taking care of me and other lonely people,” Stevka says.