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Municipal programmes as a basis for the improvement of the quality of life in Ostrów Wielkopolski
City/Region : Ostrów Wielkopolski , Poland

Ostrów Wielkopolski is home to a population of 72,000 inhabitants, 23% of which are 60+ years of age. The local authorities, aware of the challenges associated with an aging population, have taken a number of  initiatives related to elederly citizens (health/social/housing programes). On the other hand, seeing the potential in young residents, as well as their decisive role in the development of the city, the city created comprehensive activities targeted at young families. The city's offer aims to encourage younger generations to stay in Ostrów, to set up home and to develop professional paths here. Such a comprehensive project is an example of a tangible change.

Agendas addressed
HousingSocial inclusion and integration
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Nurture a sharing economy
Context
The City Hall/ maternity grants for newborns

Ostrów is a medium-sized city located approx. 100 km from larger urban centers in Poland (Poznań/Wrocław/Łódź). Its close proximity to these larger cities means that many young people who graduate in these cities, take up professional activities there. At the same time, Ostrów has an aging population, which until now, were a marginalized social group.

Ostrów is a city with lots of potential, life here has many advantages – cultural/ sport/ recreational/investment opportunities.

The city authorities, noticing the problem of the outflow of young people to large cities, bearing in mind the aging society, seeing the potential the city could achieve from creating a comprehensive family policy program. The aim was to create an offer that meets the needs of society related to access to preventative health care, culture, sport and education. The assumption was therefore to activate senior citizens, as well as to steam the outflow of young people (maternity grant, free kindergartens, municipal housing programmes).

https://umostrow.pl/dla-seniorow.html

https://umostrow.pl/dla-rodziny.html

https://umostrow.pl/news/szczesliwcy-z-kluczami.html

https://extranet.who.int/agefriendlyworld/network/ostrow-wielkopolski/

In Action
The City Hall/ Friendly Family Program / municipal flats for young families

-One of the problems senior citizens faced was their low participation in social life. Taking into account that everybody will one day become a senior citizen, me and my co –workers  decided to implement a series of system activities aimed at engaging with senior citizens, facilitating their access to public services, and increasing their participation in the decision-making process. The changes we introduced sought to change the mentality of elderly people and challenge the sterotypes other people hold of elderly people. We’ve managed to introduce a lasting change, which is evidenced by the number of senior citizens participating in tasks - says Beata Klimek, Mayor of the City.

One of  the elements of the  project was “Ostrów Senior Card” (currently it counts 8874 senior citizens and 176 partners). The card aims is to encourage senior citizen to particpate in the social and cultural life of the city through creating a system of discounts on services, culture, and entertainment. An important component of the project is health programs. The city has allocated funds from the  budget for free flu vaccines (in 2017, 1127 people took part in this program!). An innovative option is a "Telecare Program”, in which a senior citizens, equipped with a bracelet with the "SOS" button, can call for medical assistance.

The city is developing a housing offer, which aims is to adapt an old tenement house in the city centre into a residential building for senior citizenss (lift, wide corridors; close to church, bus stop).

City authorities opened places where older people can meet. “Senior + Club”  is a place with a rich offer of activties. Day Care Centre “Senior +” also operates in the city.  The age – friendly policy of the city has been recognized across the world. Ostrów was accepted to the Global Network for Age – friendly Cities and Communities of the WHO.

The city carries out a number of activities directed to young families. A support for young parents and an act of gratitude to the effort made in raising children comes in the form of a “maternity grant”. As of July 2018, 1914 grants were given. Families can take advantage of a housing offer: “Ostrów Friendly Housing Program”. In the program, the municipal company constitutes a “bank” and residents repay a credit instalment  with  rent to this company.

Big interest of families is “Ostrów Family Card 3 +”. Pro-family policy includes also: free kindergartens and lower fees for municipal waste for large families.

The City Hall, municipal institutions, and Third Age University all participate in these projects.

Results
The City Hall/ 3d Age University - activities for seniors

1. The project allowed senior citizens and families to have equal access to public services, this was possible thanks to the "Senior Card Program" which offers discounts on cultural events, rehabilitation activities, etc. The participants of the "Ostrów Families Card Program" ( it counts 3831 people and 205 public/ private partners) can benefit from the cultural and recreational offer, etc.

2. The project helped to engage senior citizens and encourage them to participate in the social and cultural life of the city. Thanks to new meeting places (“Senior + Club”) senior citizens can meet and participate in activities. - The interest in the Club has exceeded our expectations. Initially, we assumed that from the offer, it would benefit around 30 people per day,  and  - in fact –  60 people benefit from it per day – says Mayor Beata Klimek. Senior citizens,  so far excluded, didn’t want to leave  homes and  go out. Today, thanks to rich offer, they benefit from public life.

3. The project helped to connect public and social services. A good example are Senior and Ostrów Family Card programmess. Project partners  (private/ public companies) offer discounts for services for various social groups.

4.We support volunteering and sharing economics. An example is the  “Senior Time Bank”, which consists of mutual, free services offered between older citizens.

5.The project creates new possibilities for young families. Thanks to the “maternity grant”, it is possible to buy a flat on preferential terms in the frame of the “Friendly Housing Program”, free kindergartens -  young people have a better start in life. It encourages them to stay in Ostrów.  

6. The implemented activities are social innovations. They respond to social needs, cause permanent change among senior citizens, which is evidenced by the growing number of participants in individual activities. Among the proposed solutions are innovative services, including the "Telecare" programme, which is a new approach to senior health policy.

Impact

Family policy carried out by the city authorities have contributed to the improvement of the quality of life in Ostrów Wielkopolski. The direct result is a number of people participating in programmes. An example illustrating the real involvement of senior citizens and enterprises is the “Senior Card". The programme was introduced in 2015. Within three years,  176 partners and 8874 seniors joined it. The steady growth of card holders and programme partners confirms that this model works and is popular among senior citizens,  business and public institutions.

The number of students of  Third Age University  is characterized by constant growth. In 2014/2015  393 students participated in the activities of the University;  in 2016/2017 -  448 people.

The project filled the gap in the lack of places dedicated to senior citizens. Since 2016, 2 new facilities were opened in Ostrów (Senior + Club,  Day Care Centre Senior +).

An important impact is that the awarness around the issues effecting senior citizens has been raised among residents in the city. Senior citizens organize their own events, and promote Ostrów  in twin cities.

In the context of young families the change is visible. A good example is the "Friendly Housing Programme". It is addressed to young families who don’t have good credit, but have enough earnings to pay for rent. So far, through the programme 12 apartment blocks, with 16 apartments in each one were created. Due to the great interest, the selection of the families is made on the basis of drawing of lots.

The maternity grant has impacted upon the birth rate in Ostrów. In 2017, there were approximatly 40 more births than in 2016 year.

The project  is due to improve the  financial situation of large families - by creating a system of discounts as part of the “Ostrów Family Program”, as well as discounts on municipal waste.

Challenges and lessons learned
The City Hall/ Free flu vaccines

The project may be interesting for other administrations. One of the most important challenges  was to change the mentality of society, which on the one hand expected changes regarding  family policy, on the other, wanted fast effects. However the visible effect can be achieved only with long - term action, which in effect - according to the city authorities - has succeeded.

The advantage of the project is its subject -  population ageing and migration of young people from small/medium-sized cities to large cities. The project is ready-made and can be successfully replicated in other European cities.

Familiy / Senior policy
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