WeDO2 Belgium, results from the first training phase

Espace Seniors is a Belgian French speaking organization associated to the Solidaris-Mutualité Socialiste (socialist healthcare funds) opened to all senior citizens. Espace Seniors organized last 4 July in Brussels a session to test the following two activities: “Elder abuse” and “EUSTACEA”. This session was hosted by Dominique Blondeel and Mara Barreto and organised with the help of the Coordination des Associations de Seniors (CAS) which is an umbrella for organizations working with seniors.

The activity “Elder abuse” is formed by different sections:
• Brainstorm to check what “elder abuse” means for the participants, if they know examples, etc.
• Definition of elder abuse and provide examples of different types of it
• Prevalence of elder abuse
• Consequences of elder abuse
• Barriers preventing older people from reporting abuse.

The second activity focuses on the EUSTACEA charter (European Charter of rights and responsibilities of older people in need of long-term care and assistance). It contains 2 parts: a quiz and a presentation of the rights included in the charter.

The session was scheduled to last for 3 hours with a 15 minutes pause. It was attended by fifteen active seniors coming from different organizations working with elderly people. Most of them were volunteers from Espace Seniors. Part of these volunteers usually read to residents in retirement homes and others to children admitted in hospitals’ inpatient units or in foster homes. It means that while all participants were seniors, not all of them are in contact with other seniors in the frame of their volunteer tasks.

The mean age of this group was 66 (maximum of 83 and minimum of 52).  Two thirds were female. This was a group with considerable education, socially engaged and likely to challenge and ask questions. They were not shy to voice their opinions without passively waiting for guidelines. At the end of the session, all participants gave their feedback regarding which sections of the activities they found more interesting and which ones would need improvement.
For both activities about 2/3 said they were satisfied and 1/3 very-satisfied. Regarding the outcome of the open questions, feedback has been grouped up in categories and summarized below:          

Activity “Elder abuse”:

  • What (skills) did you learn in this activity that you can use?

 A list of elder abuse criteria and of different forms of violence that could lead to an action
 First-hand experience of elderly people (participants were also seniors) 
 Importance of having adequately trained staff and in appropriate numbers in nursing homes

  • Which part(s) of the activity are most in need of improvement? How?

 Allow more time for discussion
 Ask the group to come out with examples of abuse rather than having these being provided by the developer
 Proposal to also consider “Institutional Abuse” as another category.

Many comments stated that abuse might be difficult to avoid in some budget/resources constrained institutions and it was asked whether any data on this exist (i.e. understaffed retirement homes would lead to more abuse). Thus, participants suggested to add a section explaining abuse arising from dysfunctional organizations.
The group also stressed the fact that while emphasis was on how to detect abuse, little was said on how to prevent it or how to handle an abuse situation. They considered of most importance to add in this activity a second part explaining how to handle an identified abuse situation.

Activity “EUSTACEA”:

  • What (skills) did you learn in this activity that you can use?

 To be attentive to older people needs
 The existence of a European Charter on the rights of older people
 The importance of reading the articles carefully (especially the best practice sharing)

  • Which part(s) of the activity are most in need of improvement? How?

 The quiz was too complex
 Allow more time to complete the activity  
 Timing does not allow an in-depth discussion

Even if the quiz was one of the components they liked the most, they found that it might be too complex in its present form. Eventually there is no time left for in-depth discussion. One solution could be to start with a 5 question quiz and already link it to the articles of the charter. Depending on the time left, more questions of the quiz could be used or skipped altogether.
The second component they liked the most was the discussion. While the time left was brief, there was agreement that the discussion and participant remarks were interesting.

The group concluded that there is no easy solution for the problems mentioned and there is a need for practical ways out. But they also said that this sort of activities allows to raise awareness. They agreed that they would be more attentive to older people surrounding them. They would also be more vigilant to detect potential cases of abuse and they would try to react. Finally, those who coordinate groups said they were willing to organize team meetings about these subjects. They granted that these activities were flexible tools to use and could be adapted to different target groups.

At Espace Seniors we agreed with the group’s remarks which we transmitted to the other European WeDO 2 partners during the last Transnational Meeting held in Athens with the aim of improving these activities.

Mara Barreto
Project manager, Espace Seniors

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