Can you tell us what you did?
Perry: “The project, called Voor Mekaar (For one another), ran from April to June last year in Rotterdam Schiebroek. It was set up by the Municipality of Rotterdam and the ‘Erbij’ coalition. I took part along with nine fellow mail deliverers. We were supposed to pair up with colleagues and visit people to get a good idea of their healthcare needs. This was for people over 75 years of age, or couples of whom at least one was over 75.”
Did you receive training for that assignment?
“Yes, we received training all morning, and it was very useful. We were told what to focus on when filling in the questionnaires. And there was an actor who played a senior citizen, and showed us what we might be dealing with: angry or emotional people, or people who claim you and try to keep the conversation going as long as they can. And we got the opportunity to show how we would deal with that.”
How did it go?
“We had one hour for each conversation. The people were sent letters beforehand, so they were expecting us. They were often people who didn’t get many visitors, and they were very pleased with our presence. We usually sat around a table with a cup of coffee. I would talk to the resident while my colleague filled in the questionnaire.”
What kinds of questions did you ask?
“They were usually about the elderly’s personal situations. Whether they were lonely, or whether they did their own shopping, whether they needed help in the household. But also whether they might want a companion to spend time with. We saw all kinds of different situations. There were people who could take perfect care of themselves, but there were also people who really needed help. A woman with a sick husband, who therefore was barely able to leave the house, for example. Or the one who was very isolated as a result of financial trouble.”
How do you look back on the project?
“I really enjoyed it. If I’m ever asked to do anything like this in the future, I’ll definitely say yes. I am also taking part in the Meld isolement (Report isolation) project. That means that when we’re doing delivery rounds, we keep our eyes open for signs that something’s wrong. Like houses where the curtains stay closed all the time, or mail piling up in the hallway. If we see something like that, we use our smartphone to tell the city about it so they can take action. I think it’s a useful contribution to the neighbourhood. After all, every day, PostNL deliverers walk through every street in the Netherlands.”