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Vrijwillige maatjes voor eenzame ouderen. Grenzen en mogelijkheden van vrijwillige inzet bij een kwetsbare doelgroep

Authors:

Anja Machielse ,

Prof. dr. Anja Machielse is professor Empowerment of Vulnerable older Adults at the University of Humanistic Studies. Her research is focused on older persons who are less able to deal with the complexity of daily life, social vulnerability, relational involvement and meaningfulness., NL
About Anja

Prof. dr. Anja Machielse is professor Empowerment of Vulnerable older Adults at the University of Humanistic Studies. Her research is focused on older persons who are less able to deal with the complexity of daily life, social vulnerability, relational involvement and meaningfulness.

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Pien Bos

Dr. Pien Bos is a cultural anthropologist, working at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht. Her research is focused on ageing well and meaning in life., NL
About Pien
Dr. Pien Bos is a cultural anthropologist, working at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht. Her research is focused on ageing well and meaning in life.
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Abstract

Vrijwillige maatjes voor eenzame ouderen. Grenzen en mogelijkheden van vrijwillige inzet bij een kwetsbare doelgroep

In de Nederlandse beleidscontext wordt een grote rol toegedacht aan vrijwilligersorganisaties bij het ondersteunen van kwetsbare medeburgers. Het accent ligt daarbij op ondersteuning bij zelfredzaamheid en participatie. Het omgaan met kwetsbare burgers stelt echter hoge eisen aan vrijwilligers. Om inzicht te krijgen in de grenzen van vrijwillige inzet is onderzoek uitgevoerd naar een maatjesproject voor eenzame ouderen die hun zelfstandigheid dreigen te verliezen. Doel van de interventie is de ouderen meer zelfredzaam te maken door het stimuleren van sociale activiteiten en sociale contacten. De interventie is onderzocht door middel van een “monitorende evaluatie”, waarbij ouderen, vrijwilligers en beroepskrachten zijn betrokken. Het onderzoek laat zien dat de activeringsdoelstelling voor de meeste ouderen niet realistisch is omdat hun verandermogelijkheden gering zijn en hun kwetsbaarheid eerder toe- dan afneemt. Ze hebben vooral behoefte aan persoonlijke aandacht en emotionele steun. Koppelingen zijn alleen succesvol als de wederzijdse verwachtingen van de ouderen en de vrijwilligers op elkaar aansluiten. Dit vraagt scherpe keuzes omtrent de doelgroep en het soort vrijwilligers dat wordt ingezet. De belangrijkste eisen aan de vrijwilligers zijn goede relationele vaardigheden en de bereidheid een langdurige verbinding met een oudere aan te gaan. Ook moet de professionele back-up van de vrijwilligers goed zijn geregeld.

 

A mentor project for lonely older adults. The opportunities and limitations of volunteering for a vulnerable target group
Background: Many European welfare states are increasingly emphasizing informal care in order to meet the needs of a growing population of older adults. Governments are scaling back their provision of care, encouraging citizens to fill this gap by actively taking care of each other.

In the Netherlands, the Social Support Act (WMO) is based on the premise that citizens should be able to solve their problems themselves, possibly with help from their own social network. In this policy context, volunteering organizations play a significant role in supporting vulnerable citizens. Welfare organizations are expected to mobilize informal support and create the right conditions for the deployment of volunteers. This includes the area of outreach to very vulnerable people, such as lonely older adults with multiple problems. The focus of such projects is on promoting self-reliance and social participation, which are dominant norms in this policy context. This article offers an insight into the opportunities and limitations of volunteering for a vulnerable target group. It reports on a study into a mentoring project for lonely and socially isolated older adults who are at risk of losing their self-reliance.

Problem statement: As people grow older, the chance of physical decline increases, and often results in reduced self-reliance and limitations in daily functioning, such as taking care of oneself, going shopping for groceries and maintaining social contacts. Supportive relationships can ensure that people can remain independent. However, the chance of loneliness increases as people age. Important risk factors for loneliness arise particularly among people over the age of 75. With this in mind, combatting loneliness is an important policy goal. A broad palette of interventions has been developed in recent years to push back against the negative consequences of loneliness. Many interventions focusing on loneliness are carried out by volunteer organizations. A form of voluntary commitment that we often see is the “mentoring project”, where a trained volunteer (the “mentor”) is paired with someone in a vulnerable situation, one-on-one, for a longer period of time. In this study, a mentoring project for lonely and socially isolated older adults in the Netherlands was evaluated. The aim of the intervention was to make the older adults more self-reliant by stimulating social activities and social contact. The aim of the study was to provide an insight into the functioning of this mentoring project and the opportunities that it creates for increasing the self-reliance of these vulnerable older adults through the work of volunteers. Knowledge on the subject is important in relation to the societal debate concerning the opportunities and limitations of voluntary projects that aim to help vulnerable citizens.

Methods: The evaluation of this mentoring project for lonely and socially isolated older adults was conducted through a “monitoring evaluation”, a form of evaluation that is suitable for evaluating the processes and results of an intervention that has already been underway for some time. The research shows to what extent the intervention corresponds with the goals of the project and which points need revision or improvement in order to achieve those goals better. In this case, the goal was to increase the self-reliance of lonely and socially isolated older adults. All stakeholders were involved in the study: the client group of older adults, the volunteers and the professionals who organize the project. Using two rounds of individual in-depth interviews with the older adults, in-depth interviews with the volunteers and the professionals, a group interview with the volunteers and informal conversations with all stakeholders, we explored which older adults are supported effectively by the intervention, how the intervention works and what can be expected from volunteers in a mentoring project for vulnerable older adults.

 

Conclusion: The mentoring project involves a complex and demanding target group. For most older adults in the project, the goal of social activation was unrealistic because their vulnerability is increasing and their options for change are restricted. Above all else, they need personal attention and emotional support.

Mentoring can only be successful when the mutual expectations of the elderly and the volunteers are aligned. This requires accurate decision-making regarding both the target group and the volunteers in the project. The support that can be provided must be aligned with the needs of the older adults that have agreed to participate. This means that volunteers need to be willing to engage in a long-term relationship in which personal attention, support and companionship are the most important goals. The professional support provided for the volunteers must also be well-organized.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/jsi.558
How to Cite: Machielse, A. & Bos, P., (2018). Vrijwillige maatjes voor eenzame ouderen. Grenzen en mogelijkheden van vrijwillige inzet bij een kwetsbare doelgroep. Journal of Social Intervention: Theory and Practice. 27(4), pp.69–90. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/jsi.558
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Published on 03 Jul 2018.
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