Older adults in the Netherlands (survey research)

elderly woman staring out of a window
Logo Free University of Amsterdam
Logo University of Amsterdam
Logo Trimbos Institute

(Vrije Universiteit, AISSR, Trimbos Institute).

This sub-project focuses on the older population (defined as people 65+) and how they cope with in particular the social isolation during the COVID-19 crisis. It consists out of two parts:

On the one hand, data is collected among older adults living in their own home/ independently. For this part of the project the LISS panel is used which is a probability based online panel (https://www.website.lisspanel.nl/). At two time points (May and June 2020) 1.882 panel members are asked, among others, about loneliness, social contacts, informal and formal support, coping strategies and health. The longitudinal design allows to examine changes in the situation of older adults over time, Moreover, it will be possible to detail the analyses further differentiating between for instance young old vs oldest, people with a pre-condition vs healthy people or between regions.

On the other hand, the project also examines the situation of older adults in nursing homes and residential care facilities. For this purpose three different volunteer online surveys have been disseminated among family members of residents, care staff as well as to residents without cognitive problems. Participants answered questions about, among others, frequency and alternatives for visits to maintain social contact with residents, general well-being, loneliness, mood, behaviour and day time activities of residents. The data collection entails two waves, one in May and the follow-up in June 2020.

Provisional Results

The first phase of this project is coming to an end. Trimbos institute has in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam and the Free University set out an online questionnaire in May among residents, family members and healthcare professionals in nursing homes. Within 12 days, more than 913 family members of residents in nursing homes and 533 healthcare professionals have filled in the survey. More than half of the participants are either working or has loved ones residing in the Dutch provinces Noord-Brabant or Limburg.  

More than half of the healthcare workers indicate that next to loneliness residents are also suffering from more severe problems such as agitation, depression, fear and irritability. 41% of healthcare workers also indicate a change in appetite. The increase of sorrow and unrest with residents is being noticed by almost have of the family members. One in ten also indicates that more antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed or started.

When actual visits were not possible nursing homes have tried their best to accommodate social contact between residents, family members and friends in other ways. 80% of family members and healthcare workers indicate that nursing homes are trying everything to support residents in maintaining contact. For example, extra staff was made available to assist residents with video calling, phone calls and in half of the cases contact through windows. However, these new ways of connecting are not for everyone possible. Residents with dementia, for example, do not always understand digital contact or are limited in their communications. In a quarter of the cases where no contact was possible, the family members were not able to connect digitally. One in ten family members said that they have not seen or spoken with their loved ones since the start of the corona crisis.

Even though there is much understanding of the temporary ban on visitation it also presents a great dilemma. Both caregivers and health workers are split between the wish for a high quality of living but also the prevention of contamination. More family members (41%) feel that the quality of life is more important than the safety of their loved ones (31%), by which allowing visitors to come and increasing the risk of contamination is acceptable. Whereas healthcare workers feel that safety and minimizing the risk of contamination by limiting visitors with residents (39%) is more important than the quality of living (26%). Many family members (28%) and healthcare workers (35%) had no opinion on the matter. It is important to involve healthcare workers with the relaxation of visitation regulation. Furthermore, it is important that tailored measures can be provided when it comes to contact at a distance or protective gear to be more flexible with the regulations.

For the more extensive provisional results view this Factsheet  

Results older adults living alone

The results of the impact on older adults living alone while social distancing during the corona crisis are in. On avarage they are coping well but there differences between different groups. The results and policy brief can be find here (Dutch):


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