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The health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day

Major media outlets in the USA are responding to numerous studies that illustrate the toxic effects of isolation and chronic loneliness on the health and well-being of the elderly.

In September and December, The New York Timespublished three articlesthat shone a national spotlight on the effects of social isolation. Just before Christmas, the Star Tribunefeatured a touching portrayal of the loneliness experienced by Terry, an elder friend, and the role Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly – Minneapolis/St. Paul chapter plays in her life to offset her isolation. And in January, NPR broadcast the story of Emil, who became isolated and lonely after suffering a stroke, and Shipra, his visiting volunteer who was matched to him through LBFE's San Francisco chapter. The story was then published in the Chicago Tribune.

The health risks of PROLONGED ISOLATION are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” - The AARP Foundation

These major media outlets are responding to numerous studies that illustrate the toxic effects of isolation and chronic loneliness on the health and well-being of the elderly. According to one study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), loneliness is linked to decline in nearly every functional ability. Other studies reveal a connection to impaired mental performance; compromised immune systems; increases in vascular, inflammatory and heart disease; and an increased risk of death.

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The International Federation has welcomed two new member organizations

14 years after the Polish organization, the International Federation of the little brothers of the Poor has welcomed two young and dynamic organizations which fight against isolation of the elderly in Mexico and in Romania.

During its last General Assembly, held in November 4th-5th, 2016 the International Federation has unanimously decided to welcome the two organizations as new members. The Federation now has a total of ten members.

In Mexico, the organization, Macochoa Abrazar Amigos de los Mayores, founded in 2012, acts for the most vulnerable elderly people of a poor area of Cuernavaca, near Mexico City. Together with an adult day care, group activities and home visits are developing. In 2016, the action started in two new places (Miacatlan and Altavista). Altogether, they are around 30 volunteers and more than 80 old adults in the organization. 


In Romania, in 2006, after a meeting with the French organization, the Foundation of the Princess Margareta of Romania launched the program ”Never alone”, which aims to fight against social isolation of th elderly in Romania. With the support of France for the last 5 years, the program has developed rapidly and, by the end of 2015, the volunteers decided to create an organization dedicated to this cause and to call it Niciodata singur, prietenii varstnicilor (Never alone – Friends of the Elderly).
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Election of new president and treasurer

The general assembly of November 4-5th, 2016 elected a new president, M. Giancarlo RUSSO (Board member of the French organization) and a new treasurer, M. Luc VILLENEUVE (President of the Canadian organization), for 2 years.


>> Newsletter of the General Assembly of November 4-5, 2016.

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25-year anniversary of the organization in Germany!

Freunde alter Menschen e. V. hold a photo exhibition to commemorate the organization’s 25th anniversary.

Twenty-five friendships between volunteers and elderly people were portrayed in a very special way to commemorate this anniversary. The photographer (Birte Zellentin) had the volunteers sit in the favourite chair of the old friend they visit. Fifty impressive portraits were produced as a result of this.

It's been 25 years that Freunde alter Menschen e. V. works to reduce the isolation and loneliness felt by older people in Germany. The first office was opened in 1991, in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Today there are numerous offices operating in locations such as Berlin-Mariendorf, Berlin-Reinickendorf, Wedding, Hamburg and Cologne. 

The organization, which gathers over 400 volunteers and over 500 old friends, facilitates visitation arrangements between young people and the elderly, organizes events, operates a telephone advice service and offers advice on issues relating to old age.

In addition, the organization has been always committed to the development of age-friendly housing and created the first shared house for people suffering from Alzheimer disease.


>> Freunde alter Menschen e. V.

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A very nice celebration of the International Day of Older Persons - October 1st

Every 1st of October, the different organizations members of the International Federation les petits frères des Pauvres, celebrate in their country the International Day of Older Persons.

This year, hundreds of volunteers in 10 countries participated in different actions in public spaces to alert general public of the increase of social isolation and loneliness of the elderly in our societies. 

The aim is to arouse interest and to have always more people committed to alleviate isolation of the elderly, especially those most in need, so that they can find a role in our society again. One of the main challenges is to reinforce the links between generations. 


A brief insight:


In Romania, with the campaign Flori Pentru Suflet 2016, few hundreds of volunteers have offered flowers to elders in 21 regions of the country. 





In Madrid, the concept of AUTHENTIC TOURS is a good occasion to change perceptions: workshops are organized in which the guides are the elderly served by the organization; they can share their knowledge with the general public (as guide in a museum, by teaching how to grow vegetables in an urban environment or how to kneet).




In Mexico, Facebook was used to raise awareness at a large scale. Everyday of this week, a new picture was posted. 


In Poland, the youth got organized in order to offer 3000 flowers to the elderly of Warsaw, Poznan and Lublin.

In France, 90 000 flowers have been offered to passers in 220 cities and 350 locations.


In Catalunia, a huge festive march called LAS FLORES DE LA AMISTAD has been organized to raise awareness.



And also:

o Ireland: organisation of Olympics for elderly.

o Germany: participation in a big flashmob.
o Canada : mobilisation in several regions of Quebec and organisation of an intergenerational walk.
o USA: raising awareness actions, intergenerational meetings, visits and distribution of small gifts to elderly served. 




In France, the results of an opinion pool about intergenerational relationships show an interesting perception gap: 

45 % of the elderly are mostyl expecting signs of affection from the young generation, while the young generation (<35 years old) thinks the old generation needs primarily their help for tiring daily tasks.

Even though more than 50% of the French consider that the young and the old generations help each other, 2/3 think they don’t quite understand each other.

When the young generation meets with the old generation, both perception are changed. Marthe, a 19 years old volunteer for les petits frères des Pauvres in France, can tell: « Before, I saw eldery as persons... maybe not from an other world, but from an other time anyway. While now, I’ve realized that what’s important is the person as such, what she says, who she is (…). One of the old ladies I’m visiting told me the other day: « Me, I’m not an age, I’m a body and a soul ».

To read more about it (in French).


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St George’s Day is a significant time for the Amics de la Gent Gran in Catalonia!

On the 23rd of April, the main streets of Catalonia are filled with a festive atmosphere for the celebration of St George (Sant Jordi, Saint of Catalonia). The atmosphere is contradictory and highlights the loneliness experienced by the elderly; a tragedy which if too often silenced for the majority of citizens. The campaign “Roses against oblivion” aims to raise awareness among the general public. On that day, when Dolores and Maria, the two elderly people accompanied by the Amics of the Gent Gran (and the campaign’s protagonists) receive the visit from their friends (Journalist Albert Om and Singer-Actress Nina), it is evident for them that: ‘The most important thing is not receiving the rose but receiving some pleasant company.’

Social mobilisation in Catalonia: more than 4000 roses offered to the elderly!

On Saturday 23rd April, more than 1500 volunteers of Amics de la Gent Gran kept on the tradition and offered a rose and a book to the elderly they give company to throughout the year. This event took place in 11 cities of Catalonia, where the foundation is developing its social action. Prestigious personalities from the cultural, social and political world have also visited some elderly and everyone was invited to join the movement and offer a rose to an elderly person in its neighbourhood.

Thanks to the support of nearly 100 volunteers and dozens of employees from partner businesses, 1919 elderly people living in 31 retirement homes also received a rose on Friday 22nd April. In total, 4065 roses have been offered.

The purchase of a rose allows moments of companionship

This great voluntary action is linked with the foundation’s most important awareness and fundraising campaign – Roses Contra l’Oblit (Roses against oblivion) which started 18 years ago. It is an opportunity to encourage new volunteers to join the organization in the combat against loneliness experienced by the elderly.

Amics de la Gent Grant has sold 18 000 roses throughout Catalonia. The profits from the selling are wholly dedicated to supporting the programmes of the organization. These roses, made of felt and tissue, are totally handcrafted and contribute to a social rehabilitation project in a disadvantaged area of Barcelona.

The website is promoting the campaign's publicity. Everyone can share photographs of their roses in solidarity with the elderly. On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the hastag #rosescontraloblit also promotes the campaign. To view the video of the campaign: Youtube


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Newsletter of the General Assembly 15-16 April 2016 held in France

The international Federation of the Little brothers of the Poor brings its decision-making bodies twice a year, spring and fall.  With the president, the delegates from the eight member countries form the Board and the General Assembly and ensure decision-making on a set of issues of mutual interest to the mission of the little brothers. They plan all the actions found to be relevant and useful to all.

The last General Assembly was held in April 15 and 16, in Gagny, France. Among the issues that were the subject of the work and decisions of the Assembly, here are some highlights:


·         After consulting all member countries and meet getting their approval, the General Assembly proceeded to the final adoption of the mission and vision of the Federation. These official documents will be available on the Federation website.

·         The Assembly agreed that these official documents, which require the support of its members, will be adopted in French, which will be the official version. The Board/GA will acknowledge the translations into other languages (English, Spanish and possibly others).

·         With regard to the International Charter, the Assembly adopted a version that must be ratified by each country. Delegates, members of the GA, have a mandate to come back to the next GA meeting in November with the confirmation of member countries.

·         The mandate of the Commission on the future of the Federation has been revised and the Commission has accelerated its work. More meetings will be held to propose recommendations faster.

·         Delegates received the representatives of Romania and Mexico, who wish to become members of the International Federation. They received the various elements of their applications and have listened attentively to their excellent presentations. A decision will be taken at the General Assembly in November. The continuous and valuable support of France who sponsors them, allows them to consider this new phase of their development.

·         The Assembly adopted an internal policy on crisis management for the benefit of its members. It is now in place to enable the Federation to respond rapidly to particularly difficult situations that might live its members and establish a process of assistance in different situations.

·         The financial statements of the Federation are healthy despite the exceptional deficit generated by the 2015 International Conference. However, because some funds were reserved for this Conference, the deficit was easily covered.

·         To enrich the participation of member countries in our bodies (Board and General Assembly), it was decided, on an exceptional basis, to reimburse the expenses of a second representative per country for these meetings in addition to the delegate. The results of the Commission's work on the future of the Federation will enable us to reassess the representation of the member countries

·         Finally, there will be elections for president and treasurer positions in November for a new term of two years. Their mandate will be subject to a call for applications. In due time, the information will be passed to the members on all aspects related to these elections.

President:  Pierre Asselin  

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A sign that isolation of elderly is a today’s society debate in Canada…

February was marqued by several invitation on TV show, from the famous “Banc public” on Télé-Québec to Salut Bonjour, or from CityLife to Montreal Billboard, two English-speaking TV shows. They were fantastic occasions to raise awareness of the problem of isolation of the elderly among the general public.

Banc public with Guylaine Tremblay on Télé-Québec – Isolation of the elderly


Les Petits Frères were invited, along with the famous comedienne and actress Guylaine Tremblay to discuss the isolation of our elders.

Loneliness can affect anybody, but our elders are the most at risk of being neglected and feeling abandoned. Older adults who are socially isolated will tend to develop problems which can affect their physical and mental condition. The mission of Les Petits Frères is to create interactions in their lives. 

Salut, Bonjour ! – The consequences of isolation on health

Following an article published in la Presse stating that one elder out of five doesn’t have any close friend, the director of Les Petits Frères du Québec was invited to discuss this problem with Ève-Marie Lortie on TV show Salut Bonjour.

« The more we get older, the more this pain will weigh upon us and we cannot get over it because our faculties decrease: hearing, mobility, etc. Not only isolation can cause diseases but, because you are alone, it’s all the more difficult to recover from it. » – Caroline Sauriol, Executive director of Les Petits Frères of Québec

CityLife à MAtv – Living alone, a growing tendency

Living alone is an important tendency in Montréal, but the question is what is the impact on elderly persons? This was the subject of a round table introduced by Tina Tenneriello on TV show CityLife de MaTV in which were invited Les Petits Frères.

Montreal Billboard à MAtv – A focus on the mission of Les Petits Frères 

Lucie Pinsonneault, director of Donation, was invited on TV show Montreal Billboard de MAtv which showcases organizations that bring a positive change to the life of Montreal’s population.

She described the different positive impacts of the mission of Les Petits Frères, which is fighting isolation of the elderly by creating a committed and loyal family around them.

More details: les Petits Frères website

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COP21 Paris: to what extent and how can older people be concerned by the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference?

HelpAge International will attend the COP21 in Paris from 30th of November to 11th December 2015 to ensure that the strategies being developed take older people into consideration. Here we propose an extract from a very interesting article on the subject that can be found on HelpAge website.

(c) Robin Wyatt/HelpAge International
Man Chan, the head of the village Piang Kok in Thailand, inside his DRR nerve centre


The United Nations Climate Change Conference (or COP21) is a crucial opportunity to create the first universal, legally-binding agreement to effectively tackle climate change and move the societies of the world towards resilient, low-carbon economies. This agreement would come into effect in 2020. 

To achieve this, the method must be two-fold: working to reduce global warming to under 2°C through cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that countries where climate change is already having an effect can adapt.

A team from HelpAge will attending key events in Paris to call for world leaders to agree a realistic and binding framework, and to ensure that climate change strategies being developed take into account that climate change is happening within an ageing world. 

What does climate change mean to older people?

Climate change is leading to a more volatile and unpredictable world, where natural disasters are occurring five times as often as they were in the 1970s.

During catastrophes such as floods, earthquakes and storms, older people are disproportionately affected due to their specific, age-based vulnerabilities. 

How can COP21 help ensure older people are more disaster resilient?

Key to reducing the impact of natural catastrophes on older people is disaster risk reduction (DRR). By working with older people to understand their vulnerabilities, policymakers can implement age-inclusive resilience planning to mitigate the impacts of events such as floods, storms and earthquakes.

HelpAge carries out DRR work in disaster-prone communities in more than 15 countries worldwide. We promote resilience through initiatives that target older people and that allow older people to take a lead on disaster risk assessment. 

To help older people in villages in Thailand, we’ve helped them to develop post-disaster reaction plans led by a ten-person committee. This includes checking in on the older members of the community to ensure they are okay.

Find out more :

- Discover in which countries the disaster risk faced by older people is greatest in the Disaster Risk and Age Index.

- Read more about DRR and climate change work.

HelpAge International / 12-2015 / Extract


To read the entire article:

Other related media:
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Together we can overcome isolation

100 people from 10 different countries gathered for the Congress of the International Federation of the little brothers of the Poor. Two days of conferences and workshops related to the question of aging and isolation of the elderly:

Keynote address from Dr. Jerome Gabis on the first day – A preposition proposition: Can we live without “WITH”?


-          The Aging Offender – Kevin Bryan

-          Empowering Senior out of Homelessness – Jean-Michel Giraud

-          Opening Minds through Art (OMA): Overcoming the stigma and isolation of Dementia - Dr. Fopma -Loy

-          Spirituality and the Second half of Life - Sr. Barbara

-          Video presentation “Isolation” - Marley Molkentin


Keynote address from Teepa Snow on the second day – Progression through Dementia: finding gems and seeing more than loss


-          Welcoming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) – Older Adults Kathi Boyle

-          Housing and Senior trends - Mark Browning

-          Making Visits Valuable and Positive – Teepa Snow

-          Engaging the Healer Within - Jackie Millay

-          Mental Illness and the Elderly - Gary Pollock

-          Why Do They Do That? Understanding Symptoms and Behaviors – Teepa Snow


These two days gave the opportunity for all to meet and exchange about the programs they run to fight against isolation of the elderly, thanks to the commitment of thousands of volunteers. Everyone left with new ideas and new energy. Next Congress will be in 2018.

> View programm in detail

[The conference documents are available on the intranet of the International Federation]

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Congress of the International Federation in Cincinnati from 15-18 October 2015

The Congress of the International Federation of the little brothers of the Poor will take place on October 15 to 18 in Cincinnati - USAThis conference is an opportunity for all members of the International Federation to meet, to exchange and share their skills.

During these three days, participants will have the opportunity to hear several speakers on topics such as:
- Prison Aging,
- Art and dementia,
- Homelessness and the elderly,
- Spirituality in the second part of his life.

The International Federation's members share the same mission: to fight against the isolation of the elderly through mobilizing citizens.

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Meeting in Romania with the founding members of the association Niciodata singur – Prietenii Varstnicilor in Romania

The president of the International Federation of the little brothers of the Poor met Saturday, August 29, the founding members of the association Niciodata singur – Prietenii Varstnicilor.

This Romanian association, whose mission is to fight against the isolation of older people, is born of a partnership between the Foundation Princess Margareta and les petits frères des Pauvres France.

Volunteers of the Never Alone program have decided to create an autonomous association after three years of work in different areas:
- The mobilization of volunteers,
- The governance,
- Fundraising,
- The situation of the elderly in Romania.

The president of the International Federation of the little brothers of the Poor took advantage of this meeting to highlight the work done and to explain the conditions for membership of the International Federation.

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The 7 American chapters meet in Oka


The representatives of the American chapters have met in Oka, Québec last June from 11 to 14 in order to reinforce the American network.

This week-end was the occasion for the American chapters to redefine their mission, vision, goals and objectives.

It is a big step forward for the American network thanks to the work of the representatives of Boards and Directors of the chapters of Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houghton, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and San Francisco.       

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Roses against forgetting, a simple gesture to make happy many elders

For the 17th consecutive year, Amics de la Gent Gran (Catalonia) launches its most important awareness and fundraising campaign of the year: Roses against Forgetting. On the occasion of the traditional holiday in Catalonia known as San Jordi (Saint Georges), 25.000 roses are sold at the price of 4€. These roses are a brooch made also by a nonprofit organization.

Also, on April 23rd, San Jordi’s Day, Amics de la Gent Gran will welcome more than one thousand volunteers that will offer to the elderly that they accompany all year round a natural rose and a book (typical action in this day). It takes place in 11 cities in Catalonia where the foundation leads its action.

In some cases, these volunteers are students or workers from partner companies that will offer roses to the elders living in residential homes.  Also, celebrities from the political, cultural and social scope will join this movement of solidarity with the elderly. In total, it will be more than 2.500 natural roses that will be distributed.

To communicate about this campaign, there is a website: where everybody can share a photo with the rose and an elderly person. 

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A half-marathon for the Seniors!

"Mali bracia Ubogich" association, together with a pair of friends, Marzena and Leszek, decided to draw attention to one particular problem of Seniors in Poland. Those who can't walk by themselves any more, are often "jailed" in their homes, simply because they can't afford a wheelchair. We can and want to change that!

For that reason, we will attempt to jointly complete a half-marathon in Poznań. Leszek will run 21 kilometers, pushing a wheelchair with Ms Ewa, who is an elderly person and has difficulties with moving. We want to show that everything is possible and that we should pay attention to the problems of our Seniors.
Apart from awareness raising, we also aim to collect money to fund two wheelchairs that will be jointly used by Seniors who "mali bracia Ubogich" Association is taking care of. The amount needed is 3.000 PLN (around 750 EUR).
This half-marathon will likely be the hardest thing ever done for Leszek. But the smile of Seniors and all good things happening around it, are definitively worth it. A huge emotional support will make it possible. We believe that it's not possible to change the World at once, but it is possible to change life of individual people. This is what we were focusing on during our previous "Kilimanjaro" action and this is that we are focusing now and in the future.
Please, join us and support!
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