It started as a joke, but it's become a wonderful solution to a growing problem.
In a French village of 1,050 inhabitants, the local mayor has come up with a solution to end loneliness among its senior citizens — and it all started as a joke.
In 2011, there were substantial renovations going on in the school’s cafeteria. The elderly members of the community, who were following the project closely, suggested to the mayor, Gabriel Serra, that after its completion they should go and dine there too. The initial joke quickly turned into a realizable project and Serra was able to get the project rubber-stamped.
The inter-generational cafeteria in Bioule in the southwest of France now welcomes young school children and the older members of the village. The agreement is that the older diners must be at least 75, with some even being over 90 — typically the ages when people start to become more isolated and vulnerable.
The initiative is a win-win for both sets of diners. For the kids, they get to listen to the pearls of wisdom of these seniors, who take on a sort of grandparent role; and the elderly are invigorated by sharing a meal with the younger generation who are keen to hear their stories.
It’s a truly wonderful idea bringing such diverse ages together over a meal. One elderly diner reporting to France Inter that without the cafeteria, he would be in a retirement home. The project has now been implemented in other small towns, but the mayor is quick to point out that without the care and attention of the cafeteria workers, the project wouldn’t be as successful as it is today.