In For Care

To a caring neighbourhood against loneliness

16 December 2019 - Published by Ragni Leifson
In the first week of December, the city of Aalst received more than 70 healthcare professionals and other partners to its event about caring neighbourhoods against loneliness.

The past year the city of Aalst has worked methods for bringing neighbours together and prevent loneliness with the elderly. On December 3, The city presented the end results and experiences of two pilot projects. It was a well-filled afternoon with several presentations.

Professor Liesbeth De Donder (VUB- Free University of Brussels) started with an academic overview of ‘caring neighbourhoods’, a Flemish model about supporting the quality of life and wellbeing of people in a neighbourhood. 

Afterwards the two pilot projects of ZorgLab were presented. ‘Ik Leef Mee(r)’ is a service designed to combat loneliness, and a subproject of Aalst as a partner in the In For Care project.

Many elderly living in Aalst experience feelings of loneliness and/or social isolation. ZorgLab co-created a service that was locally tested for six months. This can be considered as a collaboration between existing services with a methodologic substructure.

The design consisted of a trajectory from detection of loneliness to a personal action and evaluation. Important was the personal approach about interests, talents and wishes and a warm guidance to the range of activities and services in Aalst. This could be for example social activities in the local service centres or visits of a volunteer, based on the type of loneliness.

The test phase was short, but formal and informal partners are interested to work together on this challenge beyond the scope of the project. The findings and adjusted tools will be shared with the participants to inspire them to apply the methods in their own organisation.

“We hope to use these experiences and learnings in a follow-up with the local partners, starting from the resilience of our citizens to create warm, caring neighbourhoods and better prevent loneliness”, says Gwen Vanderstraeten, project lead of ‘Ik Leef Mee(r)’.

Another pilot project of the city of Aalst was ‘smart support in a neighbourhood’. ZorgLab developed, using service design methodology, a platform to connect digital and non-digital neighbours.  “By gaining insights about he needs of end users, we developed a technology to focus on acquaintance before making it possible that neighbours will help each other”, says Leonie Boon.

To end this afternoon, 4 partners of the pilot projects – and fitting in our quadruple helix approach- were invited to participate in a panel debate about the projects and the societal challenges. They were all convinced about the need of try-outs like these to draw attention and spread  experiences. Still a lot of work to combat these societal challenges, but at least we started and brought people together.