Thousands of Dutch pensioners are paying for companionship as private initiatives spring up to fill the gaps left by government cuts, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.
Local councils are reducing home help services and several private companies are now offering to accompany pensioners on a walk or a trip to the doctor, or even to play a game, the Volkskrant says.
One firm, named Mantelaar, employs medical students and operates in Amsterdam, but is poised to open in other cities with medical schools.
Another company, Fleur de Dag, charges €25 an hour for providing a companion over the age of 40. American firm Home Instead plans to have franchises all over the country within five years, the Volkskrant says.
SeniorenStudent charges €12.50 an hour and matches students with pensioners who have similar interests. So, for example, an architecture student could be linked up with a retired architect.
Anne van Oudheusden, one of the founders of SeniorenStudent, says elderly people need ‘social care’ as much as physical and household help. ‘Why should you be embarrassed to ask for companionship… it is what most elderly people want,’ she said.
The pensioners’ lobby group ANBO says such companies must ensure they screen their workers properly.
However, ‘in an ideal world, family, friends and neighbours would provide these services,’ director Liane den Haan said. ‘But some old people don’t like to ask their neighbours for help and feel more independent by paying for a service.’
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