The Netherlands is uniquely progressive as it generally allows for an integrated consideration of all members of society, including the elderly. As expats settling into the Dutch way of life, you might notice how the national tram system creates safe travel spaces for senior citizens on the go, and how many community centers offer special programs of events for the older members of your family and neighbourhood. As such, it’s quite easy for any elderly expats living in The Netherlands to feel welcomed and appreciated in their golden years.
Still, so many seniors are neglected or denied regular interaction beyond these selective forms of activity and mobility. And once younger relatives are consumed by the busy pace of life, a lifelong partner dies, or illness takes hold, the elderly can easily become isolated. Thankfully, there are many engaging and enriching ways to get our seniors out and about and to keep them as active and involved in the community as possible.
Host Music Nights from their era
One can argue that Dutch lifestyle revolves around informal get-togethers with loved ones. So why not direct a few evenings to celebrate Oma and Opa with their favourite sounds, some bitterballen, and a few appropriate drinks? Get the record player out and make hunting for the soundtracks of their youth at local record shops and markets an example of caring social moments for seniors. And if you’re planning a weekend fete, pop around to the Grote Markt in downtown Haarlem and pick up some fresh flowers and other Dutch treats they’ll enjoy.
Cook their favourites while they relax
Speaking of Dutch meatballs, your neighbour might be relying on the aid of a supportive personal senior alarm, and might not be comfortable manning the kitchen on his own anymore to make all those classic treats. Invite them over for dinner at yours and while preparing their chosen main course, take the opportunity to let them school you on the finer tips of Dutch cooking.
Shelf the ‘Senior’ Activities
Despite our best intentions, forcing elderly people to engage in ‘elderly’ activities can be a depressing reminder of mortality for the seniors in our communities. Health and mobility considerations aside, make them feel relevant by bringing them to novel events, performances, or unique hangout spaces in Haarlem geared towards the general public. Support their participation at social events held in casual settings with everyone from the youngest babies to other older folks, and with everyone in between.
It might require some forethought and careful planning, but integrating the elderly into daily Haarlem life – and your own personal affairs – can be a delightful and meaningful way to cherish and support them. Think of things from their perspective, and a host of possibilities can arise for keeping seniors safe, happy, and engaged throughout their years.
After all, aren’t the elderly important members of our society?