Before the international outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Nationaal Ouderenfonds already published several articles devoted to isolated elderly in the Netherlands. They reported that 45% of Dutch seniors, age 65 and over, suffer from loneliness. During recent months, this number has only increased, due to the discouragement by the government to seek personal and physical contact.
United Way the Netherlands initiated a project during the international Day of Action, with the aim to combat loneliness and isolation under our elderly population. In order to accomplish that, we plan to connect seniors of 65 years and over to online communities with the help of volunteers. We will distribute tablets among seniors and help them get started in a possible new world for them: online communication. We will start a buddy program, giving the seniors a buddy whom they can talk to through video calling for an extended period of time. Through creating and maintaining social interactions, the elderly will feel more connected and less isolated, resulting in a decrease in mental and physical problems.
We cooperated with the Dutch company Helpdigitaal, a company specialized in refurbishing and distributing tablets specially made for seniors, to acquire eight tablets. In addition, they offered to share their database with us too, filled with registered elderly in need of social interaction. We were able to identify eight isolated seniors suitable for this project. Lastly, Helpdigitaal also offered to help us find volunteers. To increase our chances of finding sufficient volunteers, we also consulted our partner Total Nederland N.V. to help us find more. They offered to help us with this project, and they opened their Action! platform for our call for more volunteers.
Registered volunteers will receive a handbook, explaining the purpose of our project and how we will achieve our goals. It will show in great detail, how the tablets work, how they are expected to maintain in contact through video calling. Additionally, the handbook will be distributed to the elderly too, containing information on how to manage the tablets and what we will do to reduce their isolation and loneliness.
We expect the elderly and volunteers to video call each other several times a month and the volunteers may also register the seniors to other online services, all in order to connect the seniors in other social circles. We expect improvement in the seniors’ happiness, mental status, and possibly physical health.