2020 Operating Highlights of M. Ciuzelis Charity Foundation

Looking back on 2020, we can say that it was a record-breaking year. Sounds controversial, but the global pandemic and the lockdown have shown us once again that emotional support is as equally important to older people as physical help is. In the Silver Line we noticed the increased need to take care of the emotional wellbeing of older people, and our partners confirmed that this topic is relevant to many.

Briefly, 2020 can be summarized as follows:

> in 2020, 1,545 happy pairs (+38% vs 2019) of befrienders communicated regularly at the Silver Line, and since the beginning in 2016, we have found a telephone friend, provided emotional support or informational assistance to more than 3,600 elderly people.
> Last year they all together enjoyed 12,000 quality talk hours and had a total number of 31,373 calls (+71% vs 2019), including 20,714 befriending conversations (+77% vs 2019) and 10,659 emotional support calls (+61% vs 2019). This clearly proves how important the human relationship and communication is to each of us.
> On average, 856 phone calls per month were answered on a toll-free number 8 800 800 20. In April, 2020, the number skyrocketed to 1,491 calls.
> 610 active volunteers communicate with their old age friends every week; in total, almost 1,100 people have already volunteered at the Silver Line since it was launched.
> Our team grew up to 11 professionals, responsible for the successful operation of the Foundation and the wellbeing of elderly people.
> The circle of sponsors and supporters of our mission kept rapidly growing.

The Touch of the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown, which began in the spring of 2020, challenged many, causing a lot of stress and anxiety. Naturally, it increased the number of calls we receive. About 40% of the calls were related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The callers were concerned about their health issues (What if I start coughing? How to contact my doctor? How to buy medications? etc.), about the lockdown (When will it end? Do I really need to wear a mask? Can I go outside? etc.), physical help (food deliveries, etc.), financial issues (How to pay utility bills? Will I receive my pension on time? Who will bring it? etc.). The seniors wanted to talk, to be listened to and to have their questions answered. They worried about what would happen if they got seriously ill. Would they be treated, or would they have to leave this world without any help? We listened carefully to each and every caller, reassured them, provided all the necessary information and invited to join our befriending program with like-minded people.

During the lockdown months, the number of calls to the Silver Line jumped from the average pf around 856 per month to almost 1,500, the number of befriending calls doubled, and their duration also increased significantly: as compared to the beginning of 2020, the average call duration at the end of the year was 16% longer and reached 35.7 minutes.

At the same time, we closely cooperated with the state and municipal emergency operation centers, collected information on coronavirus, which was checked and updated on a daily basis, and the Silver Line call center consultants used it to answer the questions about the pandemic.

Focusing on the callers' concerns and our rich experience, we...
...produced Recommendations for the Elderly on How to Facilitate Emergency Situations (available on the Silver Line website) and shared them with all 60 municipalities;
...often advised various other organizations, such as Universities of the Third Age, Young Maltesers, representatives of Create Lithuania (the Social Recipe group) among others;
...actively cooperated with the media (there were almost 500 public mentions) constantly providing them with the information and sharing our experience to advise both old age people and the society eager to help them.

Year 2020 and the lockdown helped us to better understand the problems older people face, to raise awareness and recognition of the services already provided, and to develop new services, triggered by the pandemic.


Our activities in 2020 did not go unnoticed:

> Minister of Health Aurelijus Veryga thanked us "for the sincere and noble work during the emergency situation and lockdown in Lithuania to provide timely emotional support to the Lithuanian population in relation with the factors caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19)".
> Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis thanked the whole team for helping Lithuania in the fight against the COVID-19 virus. According to the Prime Minister, the initiative we show testifies to the strength of a Human and the Nation, cultivates civic awareness and spreads the spirit of kindness.
> At the end of the year, according to a survey commissioned by DELFI Lietuva and conducted by the Reitingai magazine, in 2020 we contributed the most to the wellbeing of seniors and so we took the first place in the Responsible Approach Awards. This recognition is enormously important to us as it shows how true and necessary the path we have chosen is.


Rimi Lithuania

Our friendship with the Rimi retail chain had started in 2019 when shoppers were presented with the opportunity to contribute to the reduction of social exclusion of older people by donating part or all the refund for the returned beverage containers. Last year, together with this retail network we took another step forward in promotion of meaningful shopping. After paying for the goods at Rimi checkouts, shoppers received a second receipt with the information about the possibility to "put" in their shopping cart a friendship conversation for the elderly through the Silver Line.

Gjensidige, ADB

A study conducted in Lithuania on March, 2020 by the Human Study Centre in cooperation with Gjensidige Insurance Company showed the increased number of people experiencing anxiety (from 26.1% to 64.3%), sadness (from 21.9% to 46.8%) and anger (from 19.8% to 35.6%) as compared to the beginning of the pandemic. Emotional distress caused by the lockdown and the threat of coronavirus is particularly common for the elderly. Gjensidige, in response to older people’s isolation during the 2020 donated in total 17,000 Euro to the Silver Line which were converted to approximately 6,500 calls.

Vilnius City Municipality

New forms of communication had to be looked for by all age groups during the lockdown. Vilnius City Municipality, understanding that the restriction of social ties may be particularly painful to senior citizens staying at home, started cooperation with the Silver Line from the very beginning of the lockdown.

"One thing is hygiene, food and the requirement to stay at home, which we have already taken care of. Another thing is the emotional wellbeing of people locked between four walls. We want to take care of those who are the most vulnerable to the virus, the older people, and sometimes all they need is just a simple talk," – said Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius.

Ministry of Social Security and Labor

In the wake of the pandemic, we received a great deal of attention and support from the Ministry of Social Security and Labor. The ministry-funded program contributed to emotional and psychological support and information assistance for seniors, the need for which increased sharply during the pandemic.

"I would like to thank you for your contribution and assistance to our most sensitive and vulnerable. This time is particularly difficult for all of us, but older people have faced exceptional difficulties and the greatest risks to their health. And loneliness, feelings of self-isolation, emotional health problems are unfortunately naturally companions to such trials. Therefore, the time provided by the Silver Line volunteers for older people is not only very important, necessary, but also very expensive. During the pandemic, it feels very much that we can rely on each other and we are a strong and strong community”, – said Monika Navickienė, Minister of Social Security and Labor.


In 2020, we received a total of 347,574 Euro of grants and donations, which is 31% more than in 2019. 11.1% of this amount was donated by individuals, 37.3% – by companies and organizations, 51.6% – by state and municipal institutions.

We are particularly happy to have an increasing number of our recurring donors who provide their support more than once: the support of recurring business donors alone accounted for almost half of all the support received from private sector. We are extremely grateful for this attention because communication – just as breathing – is necessary every day. Over the last few years, the share of recurring donors remained stable at 15%, however, last year it jumped to 18.1%. 26 donors provided their support more than 5 times, and 12 of them donated more than 10 times.

In 2020, 12 municipalities provided support to the Silver Line to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on mental health of the elderly. In addition, we contributed to the implementation of local development strategies in Varėna, Panevėžys and Marijampolė carrying out projects co-financed by the European Union Structural Funds; we completed the Learn and Volunteer! New Skills for Professional Development and Volunteering project launched in 2018 together with Soros International House.

Yet our largest support in absolute amount of more than 117,000 Euro came from the Ministry of Social Security and Labor for the emotional and psychological support to be provided to older people. It has allowed us to significantly strengthen our current operations and lay a solid foundation for future development.

Even though 2020 was a record-breaking year for us, we do believe that the best is yet to come. We would like to live up to the day when social exclusion and isolation of the elderly will be only remembered as a bad dream, and older people will be enjoying a full life again.

We look forward to celebrating that day together with you.