The role of Pastoral da Pessoa Idosa (PPI) in reducing the impact of Covid-19 on isolated older people

About this project

Pastoral da Pessoa Idosa (PPI) is a lay movement within the Catholic Church of Brazil that provides home visits to isolated elderly people across 185 dioceses and 2800 communities. The arrival of coronavirus led to a temporary halt in visits but alternative support continued with a campaign to telephone vulnerable older people instead. Timely intervention to spread information and provide practical support to self-isolating older people had the potential to make a significant difference to the spread and impact of Covid-19.

The objective of the research was to design and employ a telephone questionnaire to gather information from PPI volunteers (Agenti Pastorali, APs) to answer three key questions:

  1. Over a period of rapid growth and geographical expansion, what changes can be identified in the characteristics, location and social circumstances of the volunteers, and how should these be recognised in the planning of their training and support?
  2. To what extent may this successful model of voluntary social care be transferrable to other middle-income countries with similar economic, geographical and political features?
  3. How has the PPI movement responded to Covid-19?

The questionnaire was cascaded through PPI and over a one-week period we received 3888 replies.

Main findings were:

  • The campaign grew rapidly with minimal state support
  • It represented a highly cost effective source of community social care
  • It drew in people with humanist motivations despite the involvement of a religious organisation
  • It demonstrated capability of a very rapid and organised response to change

Analysis of the findings is provided in a joint Open Access paper.

A follow-up study is under way.

Press release - Pastoral care shown to support older people at risk from COVID-19

Lead researcher

Dr Peter Kevern


Peter's expertise includes dementia studies, ageing and religion and religious communities and their role in health promotion. Peter is a member of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality and is a Trustee of Age Concern.

Peter's profile


Partner: Aging Study and Research Centre (NEPE), Catholic Pontifical University of Sao Paolo (PUC-SP)

The project was fully collaborative: the research design and questionnaire were co-created by participants in Brazil and the UK, then administered by Brazilian partners via the PPI organisational structure. The main analysis of data was by the UK partner; the paper was written in English and successive drafts revised and commented on in Portuguese. The second stage of research (the interviews) is being led by the Brazilian partners, with input from the UK in the analysis of pilot materials and future final transcripts.


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