It is at the Saint-François reception, in the heart of Le Puy, that Régis de Pompignan, volunteer administrator with the Little Brothers of the Poor, put down his bag and his walking sticks, late Saturday afternoon. At 80, this particular hiker set off a few days ago from Nîmes with “a slightly crazy project”, that of reaching Brest in 80 days.
Nearly 1,440 kilometers to cover on foot
“The idea came to me while reading Les Chemins Noirs by Sylvain Tesson, which recounts a journey that the author led from the Col de Tende (Alpes-Maritimes) to Cherbourg. I wanted to do the same, but through the local branches of the Little Brothers of the Poor and thus realize what is happening on the ground. Before setting off, the octogenarian, while preparing his route, got into shape.
I started training between September and October. I walked for an hour and a half with a 10 kg bag and walking sticks, trying to go fast.
Régis de Pompignan set off from Nîmes on April 28, with his backpack, his walking sticks and his road book. After reaching Alès in the Gard, he crossed the department, passing through Chamborigaud, Génolhac, the Col de Porte or Concoules, as well as Lozère, passing through Villefort, La Bastide-Puylaurent, Prévenchères or Luc.
On his way, the hiker was able to benefit from “the kindness of the locals”, some of whom agreed to host him at their home and made strange encounters. “I met a hiker who was with his wife and who said to me, ‘You are young, I am 85 years old. Nevertheless, I see that you are as stainless as I am”.
As in any trip, the octogenarian also had his share of disappointments. “Once at 6 p.m., I got lost. I was in open country, so I got scared. I didn’t want to sleep outside because I wasn’t equipped for it. So I turned around, walking as fast as I could to try my luck again the next day. »
“Even when you are old, you have to dream”
This weekend, he was stopping off at Puy-en-Velay. More than a field survey, his journey is above all intended to be a real ode to the third age, the one that so many people fear “Even when you are old, you have to dream. Old age is not an end, it is a stage that must be lived”. After taking two days off, Régis de Pompignan hit the road again on Monday morning, determined to achieve his goal.
The Little Brothers of the Poor Haute-Loire are looking for volunteers
With only about twenty volunteers, the association specializing in the fight against the isolation of the elderly encounters difficulties in meeting all the demands.Volunteers from the Little Brothers of the Poor visit about twenty elderly people. Illustrative photo Caroline Girard
In 2021, according to the barometer of the Little Brothers of the Poor, France had more than 530,000 elderly people in a situation of social death, i.e. 230,000 seniors more than in 2017. If in Haute-Loire the local branch, it is difficult to quantify the he extent of the phenomenon, it nevertheless noted a change in the profile of applicants. “Before, we visited seniors aged 75 to 85. Today, we have increasingly younger applicants. Recently we had a 55-year-old woman, totally isolated, who called on us,” explains Thierry Fouilloux, the association’s team coordinator.
A lack of volunteers to ensure the visits
The association’s Altiliger branch can count on about twenty volunteers. Staff which prove to be insufficient to carry out visits in good conditions visits to isolated elderly people. “That’s a problem because when a volunteer is absent, it’s difficult for us to replace him at a moment’s notice. However, behind we have a person in demand who is waiting, ”explains Thierry Fouilloux. To overcome this problem, the association created, a few years ago, “frat barracks”, in particular in Montlet and Saint-Paul-de-Tartas, where applicants can, once a month, share a convivial moment . “It is not a club of the third age strictly speaking. We are going to organize interventions to give them more information on the retreats or to carry out cultural shows. However, the association also needs hands to carry out other missions for the associative life, in particular to check the reports, to receive the volunteers wishing to join the association and to carry out occasional campaigns for the distribution of flyers. “The more of us there are, the more we can distribute the tasks and the less the workload will be. »