ReportIf the Covid-19 pandemic has, for a time, raised fears of a lasting disengagement of seniors, it has not happened. They remain a keystone of voluntary work, in which they find an extension of their active life.
The distribution of food aid by the Secours populaire, at the end of March, in the Radars industrial zone, in Grigny (Essonne), attracted a crowd of around a hundred people carrying bags and pulling carts, with babies and children. Families come here every week, welcomed by about thirty volunteers, including a few students and a good half of seniors.
That day, the good weather made it possible to organize everything outside, to get rid of the mask, with the pleasure of working together, in the service of a “good cause”, summarizes Hugues Louison, 66 years old. In early retirement, after a career as a technician at France Telecom then Orange, and after having taken on union and political responsibilities in the Socialist Party (PS), “As secretary of one of the largest enterprise sections of the PS, he specifies, I couldn’t see myself spending my retirement between the TV and the fridge! I have to move, to see the world”.
Mr. Louison, originally from Fort-de-France, Martinique, has been one of Secours Populaire’s 87,000 volunteers since September 2019. A facilitator-collector rather assigned to logistical tasks, such as the transport of foodstuffs from donor companies (Carrefour, Lidl, etc.) to warehouses and then to distribution sites. “I find an atmosphere of camaraderie, a complicity, a familiarity that I like. It’s like a job, but that we would have chosen: the proof, my car broke down today, I came on foot even if it climbs hard! », he smiled.
“Tired of staying at home”
The action of anti-poverty associations is thus largely based on the voluntary work of retired people. At Secours Populaire as elsewhere. They thus represent almost half of the 13,800 volunteers of the Little Brothers of the Poor, 13% are moreover over 75 years old… “When, in March 2020, during the first confinement, the government instructed those over 60, deemed to be at risk, to interrupt all activity and stay at home, many experienced it very badly, remembers Coline Cosserat, in charge of volunteer work with the Little Brothers of the Poor. We felt a form of resistance: “So we’re useless? Have we become useless? » And to add: “Many of these volunteers over 60 do not feel fragile, and even denounce the “ageism” which tried to sideline them from the first Covid alert. »
The Secours populaire, for its part, has never, during the various confinements, given instructions to seniors to stay behind: “Everyone was free to take responsibility, explains Malika Tabti, its national secretary, and, finally, very few of them ceased their activity, whereas, at the same time, 7,000 active young people joined us. And we know from experience that when we have tasted solidarity, we come back to it. »
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