Beating the Odds against Loneliness

Seniors in the cafe
Photo: Die gute Stube e. V.

The non-profit association “Die gute Stube” sees itself as a contemporary everyday companion for, as it humorously puts it on its website, “young and no longer so young average Janes and Joes in Munich”. Launched in spring 2018 as an open-air service in Luitpoldpark in the northern Munich borough of Schwabing, the organisation established the “Stube” as a social meeting place in the premises of an adjacent monastery that same year. The organisers intend to counteract “loneliness, growing rusty and a precipitated decline” – or so says the tongue-in-cheek writing on the association’s website. The aim was and is to establish a place where senior citizens can pursue a variety of interests, thus escaping the frequent threat of loneliness in old age. In addition to a kitchen for cooking together, there is also a workshop, a studio and a garden.

The colourful programme, which also included numerous festivals, came to an abrupt end in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and the first lockdown. That is why the organisers promptly developed the “Stubenhocker-Netzwerk” (“couch potato network”) to keep in touch. Telephone calls or even letters to counter boredom and isolation – a format that is still being used today, even after the coronavirus pandemic has ended. The association is currently expanding its everyday support services: Additional offers in the “Stube”, more opening days and intensive public relations work. Because it is no longer possible for volunteers alone to manage the necessary routines, the full-time management of the “Stube” was expanded with the support of SAGST and a caretaker position was created.

SAGST project manager Christian Wüst is convinced that “community-building projects like these are of the utmost importance, especially in urban areas. They rely on the social power of togetherness and find ways to break out of urban anonymity, which can be oppressive, especially for older people, and puts a massive strain on the quality of life.”