A retirement home in Maribor which has introduced an innovative approach to the understanding of age has been declared the best facility for seniors in Europe by the European Centre for Research and Education in Ageing Services.
The Dom Danice Vogrinec has more than 800 beds and is one of the largest retirement homes in Slovenia.
According to its head Marko Slavič, the practices that they are introducing go far beyond their basic commitment of providing basic care and health care to the elderly.
One of their most successful projects is rock concerts dubbed Oma, Deda in Rock'n'Roll (Grandma, Grandpa and Rock'n'Roll), where well-known rock bands take the stage at admission-free open-air concerts for all generations.
The concerts have become an annual event, being organised for the fourth year this year. Thousands attend, Slavič said.
A Club of Centenarian brings together centenarians from the entire country who share their wisdom with others at special events.
"All these practices have shown our fresh, different approach to the understanding of old age," Slavič told the STA.
"We're not neglecting our required basic therapeutic activity but we're also letting people know that they're not forgotten in a fresh, kind way," said Slavič, who accepted the prize a few days ago in the Czech capital of Prague.
Aside from the Maribor home, three other facilities from Italy, France and the Netherlands were shortlisted for the prize and presented in Prague at the first congress of the European Ageing Network, which was created with last year's merger of the two biggest European associations in the field.
The European Centre for Research and Education in Ageing Services, which is a part of the network, confers the accolade biannually. In 2014, it went to a retirement home in Germany's Krefeld and in 2016 to one in Gent, Belgium.
Slavič sees the award as a recognition to all Slovenian retirement homes, whose practices put them among the best in Europe. But he warned that they would not be able to cope much longer unless a complete change of mindset happens "in the heads of the people who are responsible for the system of elderly care in this country".
He is particularly concerned about quality staff leaving the country, which he attributes to low pay in Slovenia.
"The situation is very serious. For example, Germany and Austria will need hundreds of thousands of staff in elderly care in the future. I cannot imagine the national catastrophe we face if we don't make some decisive moves quickly and stop turning a blind eye," he said.