In For Care

Service design to combat loneliness

21 December 2018 - Published by Ragni Leifson
In the city of Aalst in Belgium, formal and informal networks are connecting against loneliness among the elderly.

Many older people experience loneliness, which can have a serious effect on mental health and quality of life. A survey has shown that 30 percent of the respondents aged 75 and over living in the city of Aalst, were experiencing serious loneliness.

To deal with this worrisome trend, ZorgLab Aalst aims to improve the current system of detecting and helping elderly people who experience loneliness. Several relevant stakeholders of formal and informal networks were invited to attend three co-creation workshops, organised and accompanied by the design agency Yellow Window. The goal was to brainstorm on collaboration, solutions and tools in care services. Some interesting things emerged from these co-creation workshops.

The problem of detection

Currently, many types of activities and services are available in the city of Aalst, which can help people to feel less lonely. The problem is the course of detection and identification of loneliness, and the transfer or guidance of elderly to a certain activity or services.

"Today professionals coming into contact with elderly follow their “gut feeling”. In some cases they try to redirect this person to an internal or known service, which is not always the most appropriate. There are no distinctions made between different types of loneliness: social, emotional, moderate or serious", says Elise van Opstal in the city of Aalst.

To counter this, a user journey was used during the workshops, to demonstrate the vision of the project. It is expected that this non-linear user journey will improve the process from monitoring the loneliness to evaluation of the selected solution.

Pilot study in 2019

"There is a need for a support instrument for all healthcare providers to objectively work with, connecting formal and informal networks and services", says van Opstal.

In 2019 a pilot study, made in co-operation with local service centres and healthcare professionals, will take place to test an integrated service approach to support the healthcare providers and existing activities and services.