Dutch gov't invests €26 million to fight loneliness among elderly

Elderly lady in a nursing home (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Magnus Fröderberg). (Elderly lady in a nursing home (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Magnus Fröderberg))

Over 700 thousand elderly people in the Netherlands are sometimes lonely, according to a report by the Ministry of Public Health. That number is expected to increase to 1.1 million by 2030. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge presented a set of measures to combat loneliness among the elderly, and the government is investing 26 million euros into the plan over the coming years, RTL Nieuws reports.

One of these measures is an annual home visit for all over-75-year-olds, to check whether they are lonely. Volunteers and professionals will be trained to look out for signs of loneliness in a special program. Through these visits, every municipality can map out whether people threaten to become lonely, so that timely action can be taken if necessary. Municipalities will also be assisted in setting up a hotline, where lonely elderly people can be registered.

The government also wants to link data files to get a clear picture of streets or neighborhoods where many lonely people live. De Jonge hopes that by identifying risk areas, loneliness can be better addressed. A helpline will also be set up, that will be available for lonely elderly people to call 24/7.

Finally, the government plans to set up a program in collaboration with housing corporations and municipalities to organize the infrastructure in such a way that loneliness is less likely to strike. A neighborhood with a community bus, shops and a community center will encourage people more to talk to each other - and thereby be less likely to become lonely - than a neighborhood with few parks, benches and such. 

According to the Health Ministry report, 54 percent of over 75-year-olds in the Netherlands sometimes feel lonely. 11 percent feel very lonely. Older people are more likely to become lonely than younger, because they are more likely to lose their partner or friends. Loneliness can affect your physical, mental and financial health.