Description/achievement of initiative
“Stay Healthy, Keep Laughing” uses Laughter Therapy to improve the well-being of senior citizens by facilitating the acquisition of new knowledge and competences. In parallel, the public library, as the facilitator of the activities aims to consolidate its position as an open and inclusive space with various services for the general public.
The target population (senior citizens) have access information on well-being practices, healthy lifestyles and sports. They will also be exposed to plural cultural activities that aim to enrich their own view of the world, increasing their tolerance to difference and their understanding of human nature.
The topic was initially studied by a team at the Library, which focused on content analysis of the research literature on the topic of Laughter Therapy coupled with in-depth interviews with certified professionals in order to assess the relevance of the initiative. The conclusions of the study confirmed the added value of implementing this activity by providing access to Laughter Therapy for senior citizens.
The offer of the services was disseminated using multiple outlets: local press, outdoor signs, distribution of pamphlets in public spaces and the official webpage and Facebook page of the library. In parallel, the library identified the key local partners which consist of private institutions of social solidarity that provide specific services for the senior citizens (day care centres and retirement homes) who were then invited to join the initiative.
The library organised fortnightly practical sessions which were facilitated in the first year by an external certified Laughter Therapist: Isabel Videira, clinical nurse that developed research in Laughter Therapy as part of a Master programme. The second year of therapy is facilitated by a member of the Library’s staff: Sónia Pais, library technician, major in Arts, illustrator and a certified Laughter teacher by the Laughter Yoga International University (Spain).
The participation in the events was open and free of charge for citizens over 65 years old. The choice of the target population was based on the regional sociodemographic indicators, which point to a high proportion of senior citizens and an increase in longevity coupled with low levels of literacy. The national census of 2011 indicates that the majority of the economically inactive population in the region consists of citizens over 65 years old, which increases the need for an entity like the Library to organise activities that target this group and increase their well-being while taking into consideration their level of literacy.
The Facebook page of the library includes photos of the activities that can be accessed at https://www.facebook.com/pg/bm.severdovouga/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1909334569101747 .
The key partners have daily contact and activities with the senior citizens and ensure that the knowledge and practice learnt at the therapy sessions in the library are integrated into the daily routine of the participants, thus ensuring a continuity of the practice beyond the sessions.
Arrangements for Capacity-Building and Technology Transfer
The first year of the sessions was facilitated by an external certified teacher, while a member of the library’s staff got an external certification from the Laughter Yoga International University in Spain. The second year of activities were already carried out by that member of the library staff after having acquired the above-mentioned certification.
The staff of the institutions that work directly with the users are already carrying out small activities where there is a repetition of the contents the sessions. The member of the staff that was certified in Laughter Yoga will train other trainers among the staff of the institutions, which is the main activity in terms of capacity-building and transferring knowledge as part of the program.
In parallel, and in order to ensure that the program reaches other target groups, the library team has initiated experimental Laughter Yoga sessions with children in the age group 3 to 5 years old in a parallel project entitled “Literally Laughing” (in Portuguese: “Rir à Letra”). For this project, there have been two local partners already identified that consist of two educational institutions with pre-school activities.
Coordination mechanisms/governance structure
In line with its mandate of contributing to the social, cultural and intellectual development of the society, the public Library (Biblioteca Municipal de Sever do Vouga) developed the initiative “Stay Healthy, Keep Laughing”, which aims to use Laughter Therapy as a tool to improve the well-being of senior citizens at a local level.
The coordination of the programme is assured by the public Library who is the main responsible for identifying project partners, organising the sessions of Laughter Therapy and identifying the facilitators/teachers, as well as establishing the criteria for monitoring and evaluating the impact of the initiative.
The library identified key partners that provide specific services for the senior citizens: day care centres and retirement homes. These key partners consist mostly of private institutions of social solidarity (IPSS in Portuguese - Instituições Privadas de Solidariedade Social). The IPSS have privileged access to the senior citizens and assume several roles in collaboration with the coordination: facilitating the participation of their users in the sessions, ensuring that the learning that took place within the programme is integrated into the routine of the users and participating, together with the library, in the evaluation of the impact of the initiative.
The coordination was also responsible for identifying partners that provided the necessary financing for the completion of the activities.
The monitoring and evaluation of the activities is done at two levels:
a) by the certified teachers and library team;
b) by the personnel that works on a daily basis with the users of the programme.
At both levels, there is an active engagement in analysing the reactions of the users to the sessions, by following structured methodologies in order to collect quantitative and qualitative data systematically and in a standardised format. The psychologist of the local municipal governing body was involved in the definition of the methodologies of monitoring and evaluation. It is the responsibility of the library team to analyse and evaluate the different types of data and decide on actions to improve the program.
1. Public Library of Sever do Vouga (official name in Portuguese: Biblioteca Municipal de Sever do Vouga);
2. Local Private Institutions of Social Solidarity that provide care for senior citizens. (In Portuguese: Instituições Privadas de Solidariedade Social - IPSS - com Internato e de Centro de Dia de Idosos);
3. Association for Disabled Citizens (In Portuguese: Associação Pró Cidadão Deficiente Integrado);
4. Social Centre Maria da Glória;
5. Foundation Bernardo Barbosa Quadros;
5. Charity “Santa Casa da Misericórdia” in Talhadas and Sever do Vouga.