Awareness Campaigns

The Community of Sant'Egidio has deepened over the years its belief that the elderly can be at the origin of an impressive movement of opinion and mobilisation for the defence of life and fundamental human rights. In the 1990s, two major communication campaigns were launched, the "Letter of Mary" and the "Letter of Anna". Two elderly women who publicly ask, through a letter-appeal signed by almost a million people, respectively, not to go to a nursing home (Maria) and to be able to receive an hour of company from someone to find a place in society (Anna).

The "Letter of Maria" raised the problem common to thousands of elderly people, of formulating a possible solution towards a movement of opinion favourable to the strengthening home services as an alternative to indiscriminate institutionalisation.

The "Anna's Letter" is very immediate, simple and direct written by an elderly woman, Anna, admitted to a nursing home because she chose to go. It is not a letter of denunciation. Anna does not criticise the conditions of institutionalised elders. Anna asks for friendship and commitment to relieve the loneliness of those who are inside. It is a request for companionship but also an offer of friendship that underlines the profound dignity of the elderly hospitalised. The proposal of the letter is not only to do something, even if this is important, but above all it is the desire to break the loneliness of those inside the institute and, many times, also of those outside!

The letters are proposals for friendship for all. They stems from the conviction that the elderly, even when they are hospitalised in the institution, are a great ethical, human, civil, solidarity resource and that they can be very useful.

Anna's proposal for this letter was endorsed by the Youth for Peace of the Community of Sant'Egidio. Younger generations often lose the sense of history and with it an important part of their identity. Contemporary lifestyle has increasingly moved young people away from the elderly, hindering the dialogue between generations. The elderly can tell their story to young people, they communicate the horror of war and the value of defending and loving peace. From these encounters important experiences of friendship were born, rich among other things with educational content. If the seniors receive joy and affection from the children it is also true that for young people finding an elderly friend is often an experience that helps them grow, makes them mature, makes them understand the value of life.