Letters to the Editor: Let Healthy Elderly Provide Informal Care

Hans and Ria Keen from Boekelo. She is a caregiver for him.Statue Guus Dubbelman / de Volkskrant

today’s letter

The Netherlands already has a shortage of 50,000 nurses and every year the shortage continues to increase by 10,000. The situation is particularly ominous for North Brabant. 40 years ago, as a newly trained psychogerontologist for the province of Noord-Brabant, I was allowed to write a political memorandum on the elderly policy of the future. An alarming conclusion was that the province would account for no less than a quarter of the total aging population in the Netherlands.

When my mother got dementia fourteen years ago, thanks to the efforts of the entire parent family of twelve children, we were able to take care of her at home for seven years. So every weekend from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon I went from Tilburg to Limburg to look after my mother. But in the end we could not even cope anymore and we had to let mom stay too long in the nursing home.

It takes a village to take care of someone with dementia† The generation of Dutch elderly people who will soon need help has, on average, only 1.9 children to fall back on. And the aging North Brabant (and Limburg) are again below this average.

For many years, I have been breaking my head over what to do if the generation I belong to is in massive need of help. I can only think of one solution that provides comfort: ask (or force) healthy seniors under 75 to provide informal care to their peers in need of care – for example, two days a week.

impossible? New. Most people are good. And it is precisely the healthy elderly who benefit from this solution, after all, the following also applies to people in need of help: today me, tomorrow you.

Huub Buijssenpsychogerontologist, Tilburg

Final exam

Biology final exam is about biology, physics exam is about physics and art exam is about art, only the Dutch exam is not about Dutch.

In class, I work with my students on Dutch literature – we read, discuss and research novels and stories, read and write poems. In addition, the lessons are about the Dutch language – the history of our language, how the language changes, how children learn languages, communication rules, the style’s influence on persuasiveness, the image of language variations and the relationship between language and identity.

But the final exam in Dutch was again not about Dutch but about an exhibition in Venice by the English artist Damien Hirst and about big data. What thought is behind it? That we should give students with art and computer science an advantage? It felt like a huge anticlimax.

But the misery does not end there, for although the content of the texts chosen is entirely arbitrary, their form and origin are not. Year after year, the Dutch exam consists exclusively of edited and dated opinion pieces, columns and comments from invariably the same magazines.

Why not even a poem by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, a short story by Bertram Koeleman, a polemical text by Jeroen Brouwers, a linguistic article by Marc Oostendorp or a literary article by Van Maaike Meijer? Why not take a Dutch exam that feels like a penny at my work instead of a slap in the face?

Auke Abma, Dutch teacher, The Hague

Jeroen Brouwers

In his obituary about Jeroen Brouwer’s death, Hans Bouman notes that Brouwer’s for mysterious reasons’ was never awarded the PC Hooft Prize. I have the following to point out: As a jury member of the 2010 PC Hooft Prize, I proposed awarding Brouwers ‘before it’s too late’.

My proposal was then blocked by my Flemish jury colleague Geert Buelens, claiming that Brouwers ‘did not need such an award after all’. As if it were an incentive prize. Unfortunately, the other judges were impressed by this false argument.

Alle Lansu, La Palma (Spain)

Minister of Climate

Coal-fired power plants shut down, an excellent climate measure, but where is our climate minister Rob Jetten when it comes to drought, nitrogen, congested highways and sharply increasing air traffic? Should not a climate minister be more important than all other ministers and governments dealing with mobility, (digital) infrastructure, housing, nature and the landscape? It’s not because we have a lot of time to make the right choices, and we can not constantly prioritize other priorities.

Mark MillerUtrecht

Radical ideas

A year ago, after trying in vain to lie out of the ‘function elsewhere’ question, Mark Rutte announced in an interview with news hour that he had radical ideas about a new governing culture and his own role in it.

Could it be that in the same interview he said that if he became prime minister again, he would not suddenly do all sorts of things differently, that is why we have not heard anything about his radical ideas since?

Marcel BesselinkUithoorn


Columnist Tim’s Jongers puts his credentials on the table: he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to growing up in poverty. And he still suffers from its effects. Even if you, like him, have been able to catch up, you are not yet free from the misery of your youth. Brave and beautiful that he shows his scars to stand up for the children who have to live in such circumstances today.

Jan ZweensPaterswolde

XL terraces

On Monday, there was an almost jubilant article in the newspaper about the space that catering terraces get in Enschede, aptly called XL terraces. What is forgotten is that this is a public, public space that must be easily accessible and accessible to all.

Particularly disabled people, wheelchair and scooter users, the blind and partially sighted are often confronted with passages that are too narrow on sidewalks and squares. The article referred to a minimum passage of 1.5 meters. But according to the standards used in Amsterdam, among other places, there must be at least 1.8 meters so that a passage from both sides is still possible.

I wonder if Enschede municipality does not take this into account. In Amsterdam, Clients’ Interest is the body that monitors the availability of public space. Until recently, it advised the Central Traffic Commission on this point. Besides that, it is of course crazy that so much public space is sacrificed for terraces, especially in an urban environment. If you live in a small house, that kind of space, as well as parks, etc. are crucial to having a good time.

Frits WegenwijsMobility and Accessibility Advisor, Amsterdam

Do you want to respond to a letter or article? Send a letter (max. 200 words) to letters@volkskrant.nl

Leave a Comment