The many years that many of us have spent as immigrants or as expats spread throughout the world, has taught us a few lessons. The many years that we have been in Portugal has highlighted once again, many of the challenges that integration into new cultures brings with it. As a result we have teamed up with an UK based NGO to bring to you the "InContact" program.
Many foreigners arrive in Portugal hoping to find employment or they selected the country as a retirement location, or to escape adverse weather conditions in their country of origin. Its immaterial in this case, what the reasons to relocate to Portugal were, because one thing they all have in common is the hope that with the move to a new country (whether on a permanent or temporary basis) they will be able to find a job (if not retired or on extended visits), find a nice home, have an exciting life and make some good friends.
But after the initial euphoria of moving to a new country passes, they often find that unless they play golf, tennis and bridge, belong to a church or volunteer at a charity, that there are few opportunities to develop a fulfilling social life.
The reality is that strong social connections are central to our physical and mental well-being! But when vulnerable older adults experience setbacks or the reality of integration into a new culture is not as easy going as expected, they often become disconnected and isolated. Facing such situations in a foreign country without the support networks that they would have had in their own country, any negative impacts are often devastating to their emotional, physical and mental well-being.
In brief, there’s many other factors that living in a new foreign country can lead to escalation of loneliness of expats, such as:
Losing a loved one or friend through death or relocation
Lack of close family ties
Difficulties in meeting new people due to access issues, an introverted personalities, or feeling like you don’t belong
Feelings of loss or grief
Poor physical health, frailty, mobility issues
A mental health condition such as depression or anxiety
Fear of rejection from others or feelings of being “different” or stigmatised by society
Inability to participate in activities due to access issues, mobility, illness, transport
Retirement from work, home relocation, starting out in a new role or community
Lack of purpose or meaning in life
Language or cultural barriers, or reduced connection with your culture of origin
Feeling lost in the crowd
To overcome some of the loneliness and social isolation challenges, the alternative that many have followed, is to use pubs as a social contact venue. Often resulting in that a high number of foreign individuals tend for example to become alcohol dependent. A very sad situation, in our humble opinion.
Because the issue of social isolation is so complex, ASMAA has for the past 5 years been seeking solutions to counter this situation. We believe that we may have found a way to deal with the chronic loneliness and isolation that many foreigners find themselves in, which leads us to want to see implemented some actions that will assist in ending social isolation among adults.
The objectives of the "InContact" program scheduled to take place early in the new year, is the creation of a network of resources that meets the needs of anyone who is isolated or lonely. A program that will help build the social connections older adults need to thrive.
We refer in this case, to pensioners, the elderly and lonely people of all ages and nationalities, although the focus will be foreign residents and visitors, the project is open to anyone that finds themselves in such situations.
But to achieve what we know it’s needed, means that some major changes will take place in ASMAA during the course of next year. With that in mind ASMAA’s executive team is in the process of finalising an agreement with a foreign NGO.
More information about this agreement and what will happen at ASMAA in the months ahead will be released in due course.
To give an idea of the number of foreigners that may be affected, according to SEF 2016 statistics, for example, just over the ages of 45 there are 14453 individuals from UK, 4148 from Netherlands and 4870 from Germany, with more than 50% residing in the Algarve.
Meaning that there is a wide foreign community that will directly benefit from this new program aimed at alleviating the isolation and loneliness that we know exists, and in the process, facilitate genuine human empowerment. Once a pilot has been successfully run in the Algarve, the program can be extended to other areas in Portugal in due course.
In the meanwhile, we invite anyone that feel, could benefit from this new project, to enter in contact with us at ASMAA either via Facebook or via email.
If you would like to HELP ASMAA with the upcoming “InContact” program set-up costs please donate so we can make it happen
DONATE 50€ | 100€ | 200€ | 500€ or any amount you feel is just
Or via Bank Transfer (EFT)
BANK: SANTANDER TOTTA
ASMAA Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association
IBAN: PT50 0018 0008 02686698020 51
USE REF: InContact Social Project