According to WHO (2020) COVID-19 is changing older people’s daily routines, the care, and support they receive, their ability to stay socially connected, as well as how they are perceived. Older people, who are considered to be at highest risk for severe illness from COVID-19, are being challenged by the COVID19 restrictions forcing them to spend more time at home in isolation, minimising their contact with other family members, friends, and colleagues, and temporary terminating employment and other activities; all leading to increased anxiety and fear of illness and death – their own and others.
Since according to Eurostat 19.2% of people in Europe are now considered elder individuals (Cyprus the 15.1%, Greece the 21.3%, Finland 20.5%, France 20,39%, Lithuania 19%, and Portugal 20.7%), which is 1 every 5 European citizens, it is important that we create opportunities for seniors during the pandemic to cope with loneliness and isolation that negatively affect their everyday lives and their physical and mental wellbeing. Both research and work are increasing their focus on providing for older people through initiatives towards an overall improved quality of life especially during these hard times we are facing due to the pandemic and improving their social life in the best possible way. Existing research reveals the positive role of art on older people. It is evidenced that a higher frequency of engagement with art results in a higher level of well-being and affects health in a positive way. Furthermore, the definition of health is transformed into something that is much more than the lack of disease and art becomes an integrated part of health care. Up until now, it has been reported that art programs in relation to medication and doctor visits have a remarkably lower cost even when it is used alongside conventional treatments.
In this framework, we propose MailArt4Seniors project which will focus on the building of a new innovative non-formal training program for Adult educators (social workers involved with the elderly, professionals working in elderly care homes, geriatric psychologists, geriatric nurses, artists offering workshops to elderly people) to help seniors cope with isolation and loneliness, ensure their personal well-being, maintain their social life and enjoy a quality daily living during the pandemic through mail art activities. Mail art has been around for many decades. It’s not a particularly new idea, but in this time of people’s isolation due to the pandemic, it felt very important to revive it and utilize it as an artistic means of expression. Especially seniors who intensively experience social distancing, will be given the opportunity through mail art as a safe mode of communal creativity, to express and share – with their family members, friends and colleagues – feelings, thoughts, emotions, and ideas in an artistic, imaginative, motivating and most importantly safe, for their health, way since distance maintained, but loneliness and isolation will be fought. Therefore, having adult educators as the target group of the project and seniors (aged 65 and more) as the final beneficiaries, we propose a project with the following objectives:
– To develop an innovative training program for adult educators, to give them the tools, guidance, and proper support to train seniors how to cope with loneliness and isolation using mail art as a tool
– To directly train adult educators, who in turn, will train seniors in mail art as a means to cope with loneliness and isolation and at the same time enhance the future effect of those trainings for a wider audience.
International cooperation of partners from Lithuania, Finland, Cyprus, France, Portugal, and Italy through the current project is an important factor that will allow them to develop and present a comprehensive training program for seniors to cope with loneliness and isolation during the COVID19 pandemic presenting trans-European recommendations. Another important aspect is the possibility for adult educators to meet, exchange experiences, and concerns. Through our cooperation with a range of related stakeholders and associated partners, we foresee that another result will be a collaborative network of experts in the field of arts who can continue to work and collaborate together after the completion of the project, and who will be involved in the project enhancing the dissemination extent and the project impact.
IO1: Collection of best practices of artists involved in mail art
IO2: A how-to guide for mail art: Curriculum and training contents
IO3: The MailArt4Seniors eLearning portal