The Netherlands has an excellent long-term care system, but it is also one of the most expensive systems compared to other OECD countries (3.7% of GDP). The system is no longer sustainable: older people need to do more themselves, with or without the help of informal care givers and volunteers.
More horizontal solidarity and voluntary commitment
Dutch families are often split up due to family members living in different parts of the country or even abroad. This limits the possibilities for informal daily care given by children or other family members. We all highly value informal care and volunteer work and fortunately, we experience more and more horizontal solidarity (older people taking care of older people) and voluntary commitment (long-term and contemporary) of friends, neighbours, acquaintances and people living in the same village, neighbourhood or city. In recent years, various citizen initiatives have emerged:
- individual level: buddies who accompany an older person for a walk, go to a theatre or concert together, guide an older person to a doctor or hospital, or neighbours who cook for an older person or shop for groceries;
- small group level: non-professionals preparing home cooked meals you can buy (home delivery or dinner in a private house or community centre), walking groups, etc.;
- community level: membership organizations that organize activities, but also teach classes on how to work with tablets and smartphones, run day care centres for people with dementia, etc. Often initiatives are set up to encourage more social contact, to stay active together and be able to live in your own home and neighbourhood for as long as possible.
StadsdorpZuid: an Amsterdam success story
StadsdorpZuid is a successful community initiative set up in 2010 in the south of Amsterdam for people of 60 years of age and above. ILC The Netherlands supported this initiative and helped to get it started. The initiative was set up because some of the people in this specific neighbourhood realized they wanted to grow old in their own neighbourhood, wanted to get to know more people to avoid loneliness and to feel safer. They also wanted to stay independent. They set up a cooperative structure, which today consists of more than 400 members. StadsdorpZuid inspired neighbouring communities and every year new cooperatives have emerged, using the knowledge and experience of StadsdorpZuid. The movement has now grown to 21 cooperatives, spread all over Amsterdam. All the ‘Stadsdorpen’ organize a variety of activities for their members, enabling people to broaden their network of friends and acquaintances. Every cooperative is unique and tailor-made because every neighbourhood has its own characteristics.
From cultural activities to informal care
The members themselves organize all the activities. For example, at least four times a year an enthusiastic birdwatcher organizes a guided walk in a park and tells about the migrating birds. Amateur musicians organize performances. Storytellers organize meetings in the library. People go out for dinner together to restaurants that give a discount to the members. Members also come together to cook and share a meal. A very successful course is how to use a computer tablet and members help each other in buying the device and getting started online. The members experience that their network increased. Now, five years after the start, people also dare to ask for informal help like hanging up a painting in the room or to do groceries. In StadsdorpZuid, all members pay a small fee that is used to maintain the website, distribute a newsletter and employ a coordinator (one day a week) to support the members.
Marieke van der Waal
Director ILC The Netherlands
This presentation was held during the Annual Meeting of ILC Global Alliance on the 23rd October 2015, in Brasil.