Anatomy of a Life Line
“I would still like to live much much longer. I am very fond of living” says Elzbieta who is 84 years old, in a brief report produced by the Biedronka Foundation. The Foundation, launched last April, focuses on helping senior citizens, improving the quality of their lives and – drawing on what Elzbieta says – contributing to their long and good living. The idea of setting up the foundation by Jerónimo Martins Polska was born a few years ago.
By then, the fast speed of Biedronka’s development had already made us quite a large company, in fact, one of the largest in Poland. And, as we were going along our growth path, we were always very conscious that we are in an industry that is, by definition, close to people. We simply work hard to satisfy a basic human need. Feeling a sense of a justified pride, we think that over the last twenty five years – a period during which many Polish households still have had relatively modest financial means – we have made a real change by providing them with high quality and nutritious food at affordable prices. Along with our growing operations, we have also run several Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives for the benefit of groups at risk of malnutrition and social exclusion.
Still, we felt that we could do more and try to give back something more to the population who trusted us, enabling our growth and success. It is for this reason that we have set up the Biedronka Foundation and focused it exclusively on social issues. As already said, the Foundation focuses on the seniors. And for good reasons. The Polish population is ageing fast. Today, every fifth Pole is 60 or more years old, and, according to the forecasts, by the year 2050 this group will account for 40% of all population. Obviously, this reflects longer lifetimes which is an achievement of the last 30 years.
What is growing the fastest is the segment of people 80 or more years old. Many of them need support in their daily lives. To sharpen the Foundation’s focus, we analysed in detail the economic well-being of the Polish retirees. And we found out that almost 300 thousand of them live in poverty, especially those who suffer from a long-term illness or disability. This fact is very disturbing. Now, of course, in this context, one has to note the profoundly changing family model and lifestyle in Poland and how these changes affect the seniors.
Through a programme run jointly with Caritas, 10 thousand seniors will receive financial support for purchases in Biedronka stores.
The weakening of intergenerational bonds and the quickly disappearing model of the multi-generational living as well as internal and external migrations imply that a growing number of seniors can no longer rely on the care provided by their families and are simply left to themselves. It is a truism that new technologies have a very far-reaching impact on all of us. This is especially true in the case of seniors. The technology, while providing numerous and very tangible benefits, could also cause exclusion. And elderly people are at a very high risk here. We see it happening all the time that an otherwise completely selfsufficient older person with a rich lifetime experience – because of her unfamiliarity with the latest technology – cannot do a simple thing in, for example, the doctor’s office or a bank without the help of her children or grandchildren.
This generates the sense of powerlessness and dependency. At the same time, the younger generation, rightly proud of its technological prowess, does not seem to fully appreciate the wisdom of their grandparents, the wisdom which took decades to earn. In the Biedronka Foundation we believe that life matters irrespective of age. And our goals are to increase society’s awareness about the seniors and to contribute to the improvement of their lives. We will specifically address the disturbing and increasingly widespread syndromes of loneliness, isolation and exclusion.
We will promote an intergenerational dialogue also through the development of the elderly-people-focused volunteering. The Foundation started in April 2020 with a programme targeted at the neediest seniors, which we run jointly with Caritas. Through this programme, ten thousand seniors receive on a monthly basis a financial support enabled by the payment card which can be exclusively used for purchases in Biedronka stores. These individuals are also assisted by Caritas’ assigned volunteers. Reacting to the Covid-19 pandemics, the Foundation has launched a large-scale support for the nursing and special care homes.
We are providing these institutions with personal protection gear and needed materials. We believe that all of us have a universal obligation to strive to provide people with fair opportunities, irrespective of age. The seniors do have every right to actively participate in the society and enjoy a long, healthy, active and meaningful life. Finally, as Maciej – who is 78 years old and a participant in one of our programs − says “it is better to smile than to feel unhappy”. And it is exactly this smile, which we want to see on the faces of as many seniors as possible in Poland, that keeps and will keep us going at the Biedronka Foundation.