In 2019, the median age in the Netherlands is 42[1], twelve years older than in 1950. The country has been ageing steadily, as improved health has lengthened the lifespan of people. Today, 3.3 million are aged 65 and older, roughly 19 percent of the total population[2]. On average, Dutchmen live until 80 and women until 83[3].  While 6 out of 7 people who are older than 80 prefer to live at home, the rest live in care homes and assisted living facilities. While half need more healthcare assistance, the other half are physically healthy[4].

During the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, those who are 70 and older have a higher risk of severe illness, according to health authorities[5]. Quarantine has been especially difficult, not only because of decreased mobility, but also because of social isolation. Loneliness disproportionately affects the elderly. Researchers define loneliness as “a subjective and negative state that occurs when the number or quality of personal relationships falls short of the level desired or expected.[6]” Those who feel lonely may be living by themselves, those whose spouses have passed away, have a small social circle and little social engagement.

“Elderly people who feel lonely are more likely to develop dementia compared to others who do not have such feelings”

According to the study ‘Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL)’, elderly people who feel lonely are more likely to develop dementia compared to others who do not have such feelings[7]. Social isolation, or a decline in the quantity of social interactions, relates to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Other long-term effects include heart diseases, stroke and depression[8].

Adam Helpt is working towards alleviating the elderly’s loneliness, but we cannot do it without your help.  We work with care homes in the city, such as Amsta, Amstelring, and Cordaan. You can do many activities together such as gardening, cooking, playing board games, playing music, or just sitting together to chat. Along with our co-founder organisations, we have arranged for volunteers to take the elderly for ‘digital walks’. The idea is that you take your mobile device and stream your real-world walk as your partner sits safely indoors and enjoys the scenery along with you. Fem, an Amsterdammer of 82 years, is certainly happy with this activity as it gives her a window out to the world in COVID times.

“Social interactionis about feeling connected to others and to give and receive attention.”

Social interaction is not just about being mentally occupied or keeping the mind fit.  More importantly, it’s about feeling connected to others and to give and receive attention. You will make a big difference in the improved health and well-being among Amsterdam’s omas and opas with just a little bit of time and energy. Being present, a smile, and the feeling of accomplishing something together will go a long way in keeping the blues away.