About this project

A large number of European seniors are feeling the effects of the economic and financial crisis in their daily lives: loss of employment and difficulties finding new jobs, rising costs of basic necessities and vital services, or simply withdrawing from social or cultural activities. Of course, other age groups or populations face similar or different challenges and are exposed, sometimes even more severely, to the risk of poverty and social exclusion.

However, we must not underestimate the vulnerability of individuals aged 50 and over, nor, in these times of crisis, deny the specific nature of poverty and social exclusion, particularly among one of the most vulnerable groups: elderly women. These women are particularly affected by the reduction of in-kind benefits, including free healthcare and long-term care, subsidized transportation, etc.

A recent study published in The Lancet[i] reveals that policies implemented in key areas of an aging society favour men more than women. Overlooked by government statistics, the issue of discrimination faced by elderly women is at the heart of a new index shedding light on the economic and social inequalities they experience.

The Soroptimists of Essen-Süd in Germany are aware of this social issue and are actively addressing it on the ground. The Soroptimists support a local food bank which aims to collect, sort, and redistribute free food and basic necessities to people in precarious situations. Food banks are organized in a network and work in collaboration with many other structures (social centres, social restaurants, etc.) to reach their beneficiaries.

The members have been organising a “Garden Café” in order to collect funds to help women suffering from old-age poverty. Money was raised by selling the entrance tickets but also by selling plants a club member has donated for this occasion. Coffee and cakes were made and donated by all members. Through the local food bank, vouchers were distributed to those vulnerable women.

The invitation to the Garden Café, accompanied by a statement raising awareness of this public health issue, was sent to 20 other German Soroptimist Clubs in the region and to several other women’s organisations in Essen.

The Soroptimists consider this project a success because they were able to count on several participants at all levels and they were also able to raise €1,000 to support many women. Last but not least, they have been able to put the issue of the impoverishment of senior women at the centre of the debate and create awareness at local level. An adequate assessment of the situation and needs is necessary if we want to ensure that this group is effectively considered in national and local strategies to combat poverty and social exclusion.