Psychological, Cultural and Social Support Activities for the Residents of the Santa Margherita Institute for the Elderly in Rome

Project location: Italy, Rome
Project start date: October 2013 - Project end date: October 2014
Project number: 2013-028
Beneficiary: Associazione Famiglia Domani

The Famiglia Domani Association was established in 1987 to promote family values in the cultural and social spheres. Since that time, the Association has constantly been involved with: meetings and conferences, publications, charity events, providing aid; also  in collaboration with public and private institutions.  For example, in collaboration with other American foundations, FD has organized in February 2012 a two days congress on “The Boundaries of the Human. The Human Being at the time of the biotechnological revolution” which was held at S. Pius X Palace (via della Conciliazione). During the congress the problem of the end of life has been specifically addressed.
Since 2008, the Association provides assistance to the residents of the Santa Margherita Institute for the Elderly through the organization of film clubs, games, social events, cultural formation and IT instruction to both the residents and those responsible for the Institute.
Convinced that the problem of the elderly is one of the critical issues of our society, it is our intention to develop this activity in a systematic and structured manner in collaboration with the Santa Margherita Institute. This is consistent with the aims of our non-profit Association, which deals with all the problems ensuing from the crisis of the modern family.

The European Union has declared 2012 the European Year for Active Aging and Solidarity Between Generations. The European Year aims to raise awareness on the contribution that the elderly make to society. The elderly often manifest forms of depression that can be mitigated by engaging them in a context of dialogue and trust, so as to find new ways of motivating the positive aspects of their selves.
The infinite possibilities of new media, particularly the Internet, can help improve the quality of life even in the older population, because they are a venue for communication, which must remain alive regardless of age, since it is a basic human necessity. We are inclined to consider the elderly and modern technologies as being worlds apart, when, in fact, the Internet is not an area reserved exclusively to a particular age group. In fact, the discriminating factor in the use of IT is not age and, once the obstacle of incomprehension is overcome, sheer curiosity drives the elderly closer to these tools. Thus, many initiatives have arisen, aimed at training the elderly in the use of computers because the Internet becomes more important every day and lack of access to the network renders it increasingly difficult to make use of many important services and information. Hence, the Internet can be of use for extremely practical matters, but it can also help them to keep pace with a fast changing world, helping to establish a dialogue between different generations, creating relationships that help support the elderly during a delicate/vulnerable stage of life, in which discomfort and loneliness amplify the multiple experiences of loss, including that of autonomy, health, relationships.
The "Santa Margherita" Aid and Charity Public Institution (IPAB) is a shelter and service for the elderly established in the late nineteenth century, located in the complex of Santa Balbina, in the area of the small Aventine. The building complex of approximately 5,000 square meters, in addition to housing about 90 seniors, is composed of several areas that the IPAB rents to non-profit institutions with goals similar to theirs.
Of these 90 seniors (50 men and 40 women), only 5 are currently "bedridden" and all others are self-sufficient. The problem facing the IPAB directors is how to entertain the residents in order to prevent their rapid psycho-physical deterioration.
For this reason, in 2008, the Famiglia Domani Association decided to address this need by renting a portion of the IPABs ample space so as to promote new activities for the elderly.
In these four years, the Famiglia Domani Association has actually started, in its own media room, a monthly film club with its own social get-together, has made its library available for their readings, organized small live concerts, planned leisure time activities such as bingo and other games with their own prizes; organized meetings with youth and families.
For example, these films have been proposed during the year: La scoperta italiana. Cristoforo Colombo; Don Camillo 4 (Guareschi); La vita è meravigliosa; Il discorso del Re; Nuovo cinema paradise; N. S. di Fatima; Addio Mr. Chips; Rigoletto; Il giro del mondo in 80 giorni; La musica nel cuore; Viaggio al centro della terra. A special mention has to be given to an English/Spanish film For Greater Glory. The true Story of Cristiada, which recalls the story of the Mexican people fighting in defense of freedom (with famous actors as Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole, Eva Longoria). The film hasn’t been yet translated into Italian but thinking it could be of interest for the elderly and for other friends, the FD Association did the work of inserting subtitles in Italian. Because of the success, more than four representations of the film were made. Snacks and drinks are always provided.
Concerning the conferences, the following speakers were invited: a famous Italian journalist, Lucio Lami to recount his life as reporter in dangerous parts of the world; a group of historians, in the anniversary of the Unification of Italy, to talk on the Risorgimento and presenting their books; a psychologist, Tonino Cantelmi, talking on the young generation and internet era; an expert on Islamic issues, Valentina Colombo, to explain the situation of European countries confronted to an important muslim presence; an English journalist (speaking Italian), John Laughland, talking on the European Union; a Catholic historian, Cristina Siccardi, presenting her book on the apparitions of Fatima.
After the conferences a small buffet has always been offered in order to allow people to stop and exchange a few words with the speaker and with other people.
But even more could be done and, a new project, launched after a series of inquiries conducted in various countries which show that the use of new media by the elderly has grown considerably in recent years, concerns the involvement of older people in recreational and cultural activities in the context of the new technologies.
The Famiglia Domani Association project, already run for a year, is to promote an activity of  psychological, cultural and social support for the guests of the Santa Margherita Institute for the Elderly, especially using the modern methods of communication (Internet, cinema, music ....).

The Famiglia Domani Association intends to setup spaces more suitable for the conduct of activities providing psychological, cultural and social sustenance for the residents of the Santa Margherita Institute for the Elderly. The first of these activities achieved, thanks also to the help of the Peretti Foundation, has been the Cineforum, with the setup of a room dedicated to the screenings of movies and music videos. This is a place of leisure and social gathering that cheers the residents’ stay. A second goal to achieve  is the creation of a multimedia room. The project (with volunteers from Association)  also aims to provide the Institute’s residents with a training course on basic computing and to have a small computer room where you have several internet stations and a shared printer. In order for the project to succeed, in addition to the skilled human resources, a space suitable for carrying out the activities is required.

This project received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation.
Improving the quality of life for residents of the Santa Margherita Institute, through the introduction of new technologies and, in particular, the film club and training in computer and communications’ technologies that introduce residents to the use of computers, the consultation of databases online and off-line, as well as Internet navigation and telecommunication services. The use of the Internet by the elderly, aside from stimulating the activity of nerve cells with a consequent benefit to mind and body, is also a valuable aid in facilitating contacts with friends and family and in providing useful information needed to make decisions on many issues, including health. The use of new technologies by the elderly residents helps to improve their mood (anxiety, apathy, depression), their psychological well-being, and their socialization skills and residual mental functions (memory, verbal and non-verbal communication).
The goal of this project is to try to involve the residents of the Santa Margherita Institute as much as possible, so as to prevent them from retreating into their own world, thereby accelerating a steady process of psychological and physical decline. Practice shows that older residents in nursing homes, feeling the love of family less, tend to shut themselves out from the world around them and become much more susceptible to diseases such as Alzheimer's or other neuro-psychological disorders. To avoid this, the Famiglia Domani Association intends to pursue the project to engage guests of the Institute Santa Margarita in a series of recreational and cultural activities (cinema and internet in particular) in order to make their stay at the institute/nursing home more pleasant and nurture/re-awaken their interest in life.

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