In February 2021, I received the statement from the Fundus Basel association on the new vision for old age policy "Growing old well and together in Basel-Stadt". Club Fundus? What kind of organization is that? My curiosity was piqued and I contacted this contact point. So on a cold Tuesday morning in March I drove to Hammerstrasse 160 to find out more about Fundus. I was greeted in the friendliest way by Nicole Tschäppät, the manager.

It's not difficult to find Hammerstrasse 160, but you have to be very careful not to miss the inner courtyard with the various studios. Fund Basel has recently rented a studio there and therefore has an official address. A large room with two computers, a comfortable table with chairs and the usual office cabinets equip the room. Striking: a bicycle trailer and a large stand with a wide variety of brochures and flyers from various organizations and their offers. Obvious: a networker is at work here!

Nicole Tschäppät explains that she earned her professional spurs in neighborhood work, thanks to her training as a socio-cultural animator. In 2017, she was leading a neighborhood project in Hirzbrunnen when specialists from three organizations asked her what the situation of seniors aged 4 in Schoren looked like. But how do you reach seniors? How can you get seniors out of loneliness? What are the needs anyway?

In response to my question, Ms. Tschäppät explained to me that she had therefore invited many organizations to a network meeting at which it was discussed how senior citizens who were difficult to reach could be better reached. As a first measure, Nicole Tschäppät and the network launched the series of events "Independent in old age" in 2018, which addresses various age-related issues and takes place in the district. However, she noticed that there are older people who would like to come to an event, but are physically too weak, too tired, too old to walk the path. In short: for the second series of events in 2019, she organized a pick-up service. And the series of events was a success.

The association was formed in 2019 Fund Basel, Nicole Tschäppät tells me, as a concrete result of her work with older people in the project, the feedback from the organizations and observations, surveys and analyses. She herself is employed at 60% as managing director. Management and helpers work on a voluntary basis. Mrs. Tschäppät does basic work twice a week for two hours. In concrete terms, this means that she always stands in the same neuralgic places near two shopping centers with her bike trailer, chairs, a folding table and the flyer stand and simply says “Grüezi” to passers-by and signals that she is ready to talk. She gains the trust of people, some of whom are curious about what she's doing. This leads to discussions and Nicole Tschäppät can see where there are problems. She triages, for example, with financial problems, social isolation or health issues and she arranges support for those seeking help: for a visit to the hairdresser, for going to the office, for shopping or simply for a walk.

And how about the volunteers? I ask.

Around 15 volunteers have already taken on some task. Some tasks are completed after an appointment, others become tandems that last for a long time. It is important to know the person seeking help and the volunteer well in order to be able to combine them carefully. Ms. Tschäppät talks enthusiastically about the 20-year-old woman, who is very happy to look after a 93-year-old. The 20-year-old now has a "grandmother", the 93-year-old is happy to have a "granddaughter". These two ladies function as a tandem totally autonomous. This arrangement started when the young woman went shopping for the old lady during the first lockdown.

Nicole Tschäppät also refers to a tandem consisting of an 80-year-old widower and a 91-year-old lady. He is fit and caringly accompanies her to various appointments every week. 

Ms. Tschäppät emphasizes that sustainability is important, ie such a couple should be able to drive together for a longer period of time so that trust can grow. The chemistry between the two people has to be right.

The sphere of action of Fund Basel is currently limited to the Hirzbrunnen quarter, which is a mixed part of the city in terms of nationalities. What about people with a migration background?

Ms Tschäppät is accompanied by a Turkish interpreter three hours a week. It is very helpful to have a person who knows the culture and language of Turkish residents. Mobile work for the elderly also means ringing the bell wherever a Turkish name is written on a street. It's backbreaking work, but incredibly rewarding. Many very good conversations result from this and some seniors realize that they can and may seek low-threshold help.

When it comes to other languages or nationalities, according to Nicole Tschäppät's experience, the seniors in Hirzbrunnen are mainly seniors with a Spanish or Italian background. Nicole Tschäppät's knowledge of Italian is enough for communication. And for more detailed support, she is so well networked that she can refer those looking for help directly, for example to GGG Migration, the Red Cross of Basel or another institution.

When asked about Seniors@Work, Ms. Tschäppät explains that “her” senior citizens probably don’t (anymore) have any energy and are not (anymore) reliable enough to accept a paid job. Your clients are older. Of course, it would be great if Fund Basel could find volunteers to help, possibly even via Seniors@Work. Unfortunately, the client of Fund Basel often do not pay fees for accompaniments. But as so often in volunteer work: you do without cash, but you get priceless social contacts, get to know great people and experience projects and life situations that you would never have experienced otherwise. Volunteering is never a one-way street.

At the very end, Nicole Tschäppät reflects on the fact that a child's social space gradually expands, but that the window gradually closes again with age. In our city there would be the Open Child and Youth Work (OKJA), which is exactly the same as Fund Basel power, just keep it for the boys. There is nothing for the older generation. So she - and I with her - hopes that Fund Basel can be put on a financially secure footing (it is still very uncertain!). And that the perimeter of their work will also be extended to other quarters.

It's time to say goodbye. I am impressed by Ms. Tschäppät's commitment and enthusiasm. And I personally am of the opinion that such bottom-up projects are much more sustainable than top-down measures.

Many thanks to the Fundus Basel association and Nicole Tschäppät all the best!

Beatrice Isler

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