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Framed by wooden cupboards, Karin Hofbauer holds a stick of butter in front of her portable camera and passes on to novice bakers gathered virtually in her kitchen the secrets of kneading shortcrust pastry.

“It’s a simple recipe, I’ve made it so many times for friends and family, and it’s always a hit,” says the 62-year-old Austrian before filling the baked apple pie with nuts and a vanilla cream.

The five Germans and Austrians who take notes came to the online course because the recipes are simple and straightforward, and because they are taught by real grandmothers like Hofbauer, who will soon be joined by other grandmothers. mothers and grandfathers from all over the world in a program run by a Viennese café. Two years ago, Hofbauer retired from an administrative post in a hospital.

Healthy, active and eager to “do something meaningful”, she joined some fifty other “grannies” at the Vollpension café in Vienna, a social enterprise where retirees boost their often meager state pensions and ease the burden. loneliness that many older people may experience. The idea was born almost 10 years ago, around a piece of cake that was too dry in a Viennese café.

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“No one makes better cakes than Grandma,” said Moriz Piffl-Percevic, co-founder of Vollpension. AFP, recalling how melancholy the dry sponge made him for the heartwarming indulgence of his grandmother’s cakes. After a classified ‘Granny Wanted’ in a local newspaper and a few pop-up coffee tryouts at festivals, the intergenerational team opened the first ‘Vollpension’, a German term for both full retirement and full board accommodation. .

At the social enterprise’s two cafes, coffee is served in old mugs with flower prints and border collie cross stitches adorning the walls. The clientele, many of whom are hipsters, are often joined by the elderly part-time hosts, unless, of course, a pandemic forces them to shut down.

When the first virus lockdown in Austria hit, customers donated 140,000 euros ($ 170,000) to maintain the additional income on which many staff depend, especially single women who, after years in as housewives, receive relatively low state pensions. This is only one of the advantages of social enterprise, however.

“Older people want to feel needed, this is something incredibly essential to aging, and it is something that Vollpension provides,” says Franz Kolland, professor at the University of Vienna who focuses on social aspects. of old age.

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As people get older, “they face two decades of retirement in which they are mobile. They want to do something – they just need to be approached,” Kolland says, praising Vollpension as a “role model.” Piffl-Percevic says he is touched when friends and family report how much their grandmother’s well-being has improved after joining Vollpension.

“Suddenly, they don’t have hip pain anymore, or they’ve stopped drinking too much,” he says. To “get our grannies going” during the pandemic, Piffl-Percevic and his colleagues have started looking for alternatives beyond the takeout cake. Bringing the cooking skills of grandmothers and grandfathers online was the next logical step.

An army of volunteers helped set up a baking studio similar to TV chefs and filmed on-demand baking classes ranging from Christmas cookies to vegan cakes, while Hofbauer and others run baking classes. live in their own kitchens.

After overcoming the familiar pitfalls of Zoom meetings, Hofbauer passes on his knowledge of decades of baking, including the best apple peeler: “It doesn’t have to be something expensive, I think mine costs three euros,” says she laughs.

When the last Vollpension Café opened, just before the pandemic, more than 300 enthusiastic seniors applied within 24 hours. The success of the baking courses with hundreds of participants now encourages Vollpension to go global. In several languages, Vollpension is calling this week grannies and grandpas from all over the world to join them.

“Vollpension was founded to give people like us a place where they find meaning and can lead lives worth living even in old age,” says a grandmother in Italian in a video promoting the call for candidates.

Also Read: How Covid-19 Changed the Lives of Seniors

People all over the world can learn to cook with “original family recipes from the region, and straight from grandma’s cooking,” another says in Spanish.

“These are local and national recipes: mango with sticky rice taught by a Thai grandmother and panna cotta by a Sicilian,” explains Piffl-Percevic.

Hofbauer, who says he’s hosted attendees from Boston and Crete, is already looking forward to baking classes going global.

“I found new friends, new acquaintances, and if we go international it will be even more fun,” she says, the scent of warm apple pie now filling her 80s-style kitchen. ” More the merrier, the merrier.”

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