It all began as an initiative from some municipality, who did not want to “bury” the elderly under a blanket of social indifference and abandonment before the big move to their afterlife. Then slowly the initiative was spread, more cities have tried to restore relationships with the senior citizens; today we have arrived at a regional law in Veneto. The project is called ’ the foster grandparents’, and envisages retired couples, families with children, but also single eager to spend some time and are willing to adopt an elder.
The effort is minimal: visits 2 or 3 times a week, giving help in daily necessities like groceries, errands to pharmacy or filling out a form, going for walks. But sometimes also going to the cinema or invitations to dinner, it is not uncommon that sincere friendships may bloom. Before being declared fit, one is required to go on interviews and to do some training.
Each family will get a monthly payment, of 500 Euros – in the event that the elder is given part time – up to 900 Euros for a full time assistance, which entails the cohabitation with the foster family. Maintenance costs are borne by the host, who does not however bear other costs to the family adopting the elderly person. All is run by the local social services.
Today, more than ever, grandparents can play an important role in our society too often wrapped up on itself, involved in other things and which has no time to think about its past. It is not only the narration of a fairy tale or an outing to the park, it is much more than that: you will discover listening skills, a hand that accompanies you to the gardens, two eyes that take care of you while you play; nothing to do with the colored pixels of a television or a video game console, which immerse children in total solitude. Adopting a grandparent means offering a guiding path for children, it means giving the opportunity to feel ‘alive’ even for those whose time has passed the ‘threshhold’ of life. This is why the project has its own deep significance: because it is breaching the generational gap again, they are the ‘glue’ to a society which is getting lost.
The channels of communication that arise between these two generations are precious, however far they may seem from each other and yet how they are often easier than those shared between child and parent: grandparents, indeed, are not expected to educate, creating often many tensions; there is no jealousy or the desire for identification and the child, on its part, can express an emotion that is nurtured on small child games and complicity. At one time there were many grandchildren and fewer grandparents; families were more numerous, but lived less years,) however today it is the contrary (42% of the grandchildren at birth have all four grandparents).
Family and interpersonal relationships have also deeply changed: it would be just sufficient to say that in the past divorce did not exist, and the father, either for work or mentality, was often absent and it was the woman hwo took care of the family and the upbringing of the children; the elderly were treated with great reverence and almost always lived together with their children. Today grandparents lives mostly on their own, like an independent person would, (often still works), closly tied to the to the family but at the same time, they donot interfere. The concept of family has changed, so it is not uncommon to see grandparents who exercise their “role” only once or twice a month.
For this reason, the regional law recently passed in Veneto, but also the experiences of Lucca, or those in small towns in Milan or in Emilia Romagna, have been set as examples to follow and have been encouraged: they represent a slap in the face to individualism prevalent in today’s world, giving rise to new generations who are unable in spite of themselves, to relate not only among different age groups, but often even with their own peers. To paraphrase an old Italian saying which says: whoever finds a grandfather finds a treasure.