Italian students have organized a campaign to uplift and honor the elderly, who have suffered heavy losses in Italy’s coronavirus outbreak.
Offering calls and video messages for elderly residents in isolation and a social media campaign to spread appreciation for seniors in their communities, the Catholic “Youth for Peace” movement is seeking to increase solidarity across generations.
The young people have also collected donations for masks, gloves, and other medical supplies for elderly care homes, where social distancing is difficult.
Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and the second oldest in the world after Japan. More than 20% of Italy’s population is 65 or older, according to the United Nations.
Prior to COVID-19, students involved in “Youth for Peace” used to visit nursing homes on a weekly basis.
Elderly care homes across Europe have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus which has led to the deaths of more than 26,600 people across Italy.
“Some of the elderly who died were our friends and many of the affected residences were ... the sites of our weekly visits,” Youth for Peace said in a statement released on April 27.
With Italy’s lockdown measures still in place, the youth group is seeking to make the Italian hashtag #SalviamoINostriAnziani, which means #SaveOurElderly, go viral.
— Florian Myrtaj (@Florian09276089) April 21, 2020
— elia (@svr_elia) April 21, 2020
High school and university students posted photos of an elderly acquaintance with the hashtag and a message of appreciation. They also created a group video from their homes calling for “an alternative to death and isolation” for Italy’s seniors.
— Giovani per la Pace #SalviamoINostriAnziani (@gxlapace) April 21, 2020
Some of these posts were shared on Italy’s Liberation Day, April 25, when Italians marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Milan and Turin from Nazi occupation. Veterans of Italy’s resistance movement have traditionally marked the anniversary with parades across the country.
One person shared a post with a photo of an old man that stated: “They freed us. Now it's up to us. We do not abandon them.”
— Stefano Orlando #SalviamoINostriAnziani (@Steorlando) April 24, 2020
The Youth for Peace movement is linked to the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic movement centered on peace and helping the poor. The youth group is active in schools and universities to promote solidarity with the elderly, migrants, and the homeless.
As a part of the Save Our Elderly campaign, Youth for Peace has called for Italians to “rethink” institutional nursing homes, and to strengthen home care and co-housing models.
“Every senior has the right to live in a place he can call home. Of these possible solutions, the Youth for Peace want to be promoters and, in the name of an intergenerational alliance, intend to give voice to those who, in the dramatic days of the pandemic, died in silence,” it said.
#salviamoinostrianziani aderiamo alla campagna dei GxP che vogliono che rivediamo il sistema delle case di riposo per dare agli anziani una prospettiva di vita fatta di affetti, rispetto e iniziative da condividere con chi è più giovane pic.twitter.com/4yQhPPe4TC
— luana virgili (@luanavirgili) April 22, 2020