WHY did we embark on this project?

Since early 2020, lockdown, social distancing and other Covid-related restrictions have hit seniors in the Netherlands harder than most other people. Pre-existing feelings of loneliness, insecurity and alienation have been magnified, because even relatives and other loved ones were – or seemed to be – out of reach. For many, their mental health suffered as a result.

At United Way the Netherlands we have the experience and expertise to create connections that can significantly improve the quality of life of these elderly citizens. Reaching the Unreachable seeks to create and maintain social and physical connection, and in doing so reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness among elderly Dutch seniors.

WHAT does the project entail?

In a world where physical contact may put a person’s health at risk, we focus on providing electronic devices like tablets to establish online contact combined with training and support. This project is currently supported by three charitable funds. Oranje Fonds, created as a wedding gift to Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima – now King and Queen of the Netherlands – makes funds and knowledge available to relieve solitude and poverty among vulnerable population groups. The objective is to ensure that in Dutch society no one needs to feel they don’t have anyone to turn to.

The second fund, RCOAK, focuses specifically on improving the quality of life of the elderly. Founded 400 years ago at a time when Roman Catholics were persecuted, it has the distinction of being one of the oldest charitable organizations in the Netherlands. The project’s third sponsor is Fonds Sluyterman van Loo. Every year, this fund contributes to hundreds of initiatives aimed at improving the wellbeing of senior citizens. Many of its projects are currently related to Covid-19.

WHAT RESULTS have we achieved so far?

The implementation of the second round of Reaching the Unreachable, which is scalable to include new partners, sponsors and contributors, is in full swing. While it is too early to report on its outcome, the success of its predecessor, which we concluded last year, gives us every reason to go full speed ahead.

HOW do the participants look back on the programme?

Both the gratitude of our elderly beneficiaries and the compliments of our partners are heart-warming. They keep us energized to further develop this successful project.

Once Mrs. Wertheimer, a concentration camp survivor, knew how to use the tablet we gave her, it became her lifeline to the world around her, especially to her daughter in the US: “Before I had it, I felt completely isolated. I have no relatives here, so I had to get through the first lockdown all by myself.”

WHERE do we go from here?

This programme evolved into a new initiative under the title Joining Forces. However, we intend to continue Reaching the Unreachable as well and will be grateful for any donations for this project, which focuses exclusively on senior citizens.

For additional information please contact Cedar Cox-McAllister: cedar.cox-mcallister@unitedway.nl

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