Emma Elwin

Notes from a Swedish stylist

Knit a hat and help fight loneliness

Posted in Style
by Emma Elwin on 21 November, 2015

To help vulnerable older people

The Big Knit pays attention to the question of vulnerability among elderly. In Sweden, initiator Innocent collaborates with the Red Cross, and for every knitted hat, 2 SEK goes to Red Cross’ visiting services, where volunteers pay visits to lonely and isolated people.
Make it last talks to Marianne Falås of the Red Cross about why the campaign is important.

The Swedish Red Cross consists of approximately 900 compounds across the country. The compounds arrange different activities, for refugees, children or the elderly. Since the 1940s, the Red Cross has had “visiting services” that involves volunteers visiting people who ask for it. The Red Cross connects suitable volunteers with people who are in in some way marginalized or in need of company. The volunteers who revisits the same person for many years often become a close friend.
– There are may factors contributing to the fact that people feel alone when they reach an old age. The fact that both women and men work today is of course a positive development, but can also lead to the older generation being left alone at home. Population movements from rural to urban areas often leave older generations behind as well. Divorces are frequent. And there are of course refugees who come here on their own.
– More and more people live alone today, and when you’re a little older it can be difficult to get out for a walk. We support people who are marginalized.

Why did the Swedish Red Cross decide to team up with The Big Knit?
– We got the question and had heard about something similar in the UK. Innocent wanted to find a suitable partner that could work with the campaign in a good way.
– The ways of working with aid are different today. While it used to be common to donate old garments and send them to troubled areas in chartered planes, this is not always considered economically or ecologically sound today. Instead, the best way to help is often by donating money.

Who are the ones knitting the hats?
– We have had elderly engaged in sewing circles for a long time, in recent years they have contributed mainly to our second-hand shops. The same groups are now knitting lots of small hats.

– The people engaged in these circles are often older, and the meetings constitute social contexts for them. I myself was involved in starting up a similar group in Lindängen in Malmö, a socio-economically deprived area, where older Swedish women and often young immigrant women get together to drink coffee, knit and repair clothes. It becomes an everyday social context that means a lot to everyone involved.

What are your hopes with The Big Knit?
– Many Red Cross compounds are taking part of the project, and many more people are knitting than we would have thought. This translates into more money directed towards breaking isolation and loneliness, which is something there is a constant need for.

How is the money raised used?
– We help compounds to launch activities, and to recruit and train volunteers. We make sure to educate everyone volunteering to do visits, especially so when the meetings take place in someone’s home.

– As a volunteer you should have no expenses, so the money also goes to cover travel costs and for the volunteers to be able to buy coffee and pastry for their visits.

Who are the volunteers?
– It is mainly older women when it comes to the visiting services. This has been the case for many years. Many of the younger volunteers choose to engage in activities aimed at asylum seekers and refugees. We would love to see more young people engaging in the visiting services. There is sometimes an endurance problem–the visiting volunteers should be able to dedicate time for more than a few months. The elderly who are receiving visits often think that it’s sad when volunteers quickly disappear and are replaced.

The Big Knit is a joint campaign between Innocent and the Swedish Red Cross to help vulnerable older people. People are encouraged to knit tiny hats that fit Innocent’s smoothie bottles. The hats are added to smoothies in stores in February 2016, and for every sold smoothie, 2 SEK is donated to the Red Cross’ visit activities for the elderly.

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