By Chris Welsch
Alberto Cabanes has made it his life’s mission to reduce the isolation of the elderly. He created a volunteer network called Adopta un Abuelo, or Adopt a Grandparent, about five years ago to bring visitors to retirement homes across Spain.
He was inspired by visits to his own grandfather and an elderly friend named Bernardo at a retirement home in Ciudad Real. When Alberto visited, his grandfather and Bernardo got companionship, and Alberto’s life was enriched by their life experience and wisdom.
As 2020 started, the Adopta un Abuelo network was growing steadily. Volunteers paid a small monthly fee to receive guidance and be matched with an elder.
When COVID-19 struck, the crisis was particularly devastating for the elderly in care homes, because they are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of the virus. When the lockdown began in Spain in early March, Alberto was worried.
“It was a perfect cocktail of circumstances for bad things to happen,” he says.
Many care home residents who were part of the grandparent network have fallen victim to the virus. Because visits to care homes were no longer safe, Alberto was starting to consider laying off some of his team of 15 people.