Bistro and bar open at French retirement home to boost social links

The project helps residents foster friendships and feel more sociable. Any profits are reinvested in the care home’s social activities

The bistro helps the care home residents to recreate the sociable feeling they had before they entered the institution
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A bistro and a bar have opened in a retirement home in northern France in a bid to bring more warmth and social interaction to the residents.

The idea began in 2016 but took several years to take shape and secure funding at the Ehpad (elderly care home) in Abbeville, Somme (Hauts-de-France).

Finally, after €110,000 in funding from the European Union and the centre for elderly autonomy, Centre national de solidarité pour l'autonomie, the centre opened this spring.

Laurent Douchin, psychiatry health manager at the Ehpad, told France 3: “The idea was to transform this place, which was quite empty and cold, into a social place, to make it a village square where people could meet, talk and have a drink at a bistro table.

“This is something that the residents lack when they enter the institution. They never exchange money anymore. This gives them the opportunity to exchange money for drinks, which is also a social link.”

The drinks include soft drinks, fruit juices, and alcohol-free beer. All are priced low to enable the residents to visit often and stocks are managed by an association of care workers.

It follows the success of a care home in Brittany which has reproduced a replica of village life.

Read more here: French care home praised for giving residents replica of village life

Mr Douchin said: “We take some of the profits to shore up losses, if there are any, but the aim isn’t to make a profit. Everything goes back to the residents.

“We already spent almost €500 last year on Christmas decorations, and we paid for an outing to a local restaurant, in addition to the budget we already had for the event.”

Cédric Pinilo, the barman, said: “They love it. My colleague, who opens the bar at 14:00, usually has three or four people waiting for her, even before it’s open. It’s difficult to close the bar in the evening too, no-one wants to leave! It reminds them of when they used to go to a bistro [before they came here].”

The bistro has also helped foster friendships, and renew some older connections.

Mr Pinilo said: “Two residents arrived around the same time, came to the bistro, and realised that they had known each other for a very long time - they had lived in the same village. Since then, they always ask to come down to play their dominoes here [and] never leave each other's side.”

Some residents like to sing and dance, and others play board games.

One resident said: “Staying closed in your bedroom is tiring, and sad.” Another said: “We feel better [when we come here]. It’s like being on holiday. It feels friendly. Everyone feels enlivened. People laugh. It’s no longer the same as before.”

The project has inspired other events, as a way to meet the community. The Ehpad is already planning a car boot sale in the car park as a way to attract more people and spend time outdoors.

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