Compassionate City Lab

The project is a response to people’s widespread desire to remain at home right up until the end of their life. It works with the wider population to provide older people with community-based end-of-life support.


  • Lead school(s) School of Social Work
  • Additional schools School of Health Professions
  • Institute Institute on Ageing
  • Funding organisation Health Promotion Switzerland
    Walder Stiftung
    Canton of Bern’s Health, Social and Integration Directive
  • Duration (planned) 01.01.2020 - 30.06.2023
  • Project management Dr. Claudia Michel
  • Head of project Dr. Claudia Michel
  • Project staff Riccardo Pardini
  • Partner University Centre for Palliative Care
    Bärn treit
    Senioren Frutigland
  • Keywords Compassionate City, Care, Community, Social space, Palliative care, End of life


At the end of their lives, people spend the majority of their time with their life partners, family members and friends, or alone. In addition to a good healthcare system, what they need are supportive neighbours and a community that is there for them when times are hard. The city of Bern and the municipalities of Frutigland want to improve community-based end-of-life support in collaboration with their citizens.


BFH works with practice partners in the city of Bern and the Bernese Oberland to develop ways of raising awareness among the general population of the needs of people facing the end of their lives, and their friends and families. To this end, it has, among other things, founded two volunteer groups and gathered extensive first-hand knowledge from friends, family members and older people with regard to end-of-life care.

Zuhause sterben (Dying at home)

How we as a community can provide end-of-life support


The exhibition ‘Zuhause sterben’ (Dying at home) reflects the drive and principles behind the Compassionate City movement. The project believes that end-of-life care should take place at the heart of community life, and that everyone should provide support during the phases of dying, death and mourning. The intent is to spark a dialogue about mutual care and intergenerational solidarity in times of crisis.


Most of the family members we talked to received practical help from support networks that were more or less well equipped. Many felt that talking to like-minded people was good for their well-being. We also observed that there tended to be less practical support for older married women, and more for younger families and married men. In urban environments, support appeared to come from various sources within the social context (extended family, friends, neighbours), while in rural areas, support came primarily from family, sometimes assisted by volunteers.

Some family members gained profound insights into the process of dying, and their own life and death. Specialist knowledge about end-of-life care, e.g. in the form of documents, was rarely considered of particular importance. And with the exception of those who were members of church groups, only very few received support on a municipal level.

Looking ahead

On 2 November 2020, the mayor of Bern Alec von Graffenried launched the ‘Bern charter for shared end-of-life support’. Schools, churches, employers, artists, healthcare providers, neighbours and friends can join the ‘Bärn treit’ network and reflect together on how they can contribute to shared end-of-life support.

Launch of the Bern charter

This project contributes to the following SDGs