Face behind the Front Door: Senior Support Work

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For this article I spoke with Matthias Wenzel, the man behind the senior support work in our neighbourhood. For 25 years Matthias has been working for Zebra – one of the four welfare organisations in The Hague.

“My office is in Zeeheldenkwartier and ‘my district’ encompasses Zeeheldenkwartier, Kortenbos,  Archipel and Willemspark,” says Matthias. “After finishing VWO (school) I did not feel like studying. After military service I looked for work and started as a temporary holiday help at Thuiszorg (home care) and so I became a home help. I wanted to work with people, make a difference. My mother died when I was 19 years old and from then on I looked after my 12 year old brother. My career in family-welfare had an early start!”

“From holiday worker I became a permanent employee and for 10 years I enjoyed being a family-welfare worker. I did a part time HBO (higher professional education) training for senior welfare work. Since about 6 years I hold office in ‘t Klokhuis on Monday mornings to help vulnerable seniors. Quite often loneliness is part of that vulnerability. Between 10.00 and 12.00 am people can make an appointment with me.

“Until 3 years ago organizing activities for seniors was the main part of the work. In cooperation with a great number of volunteers I organized various activities. Now I focuss more on individual support and I organize house visits. When someone reaches the age of 75 he or she receives a letter from us asking if a visit of one of our volunteers would be appreciated. Some feel that is patronizing and therefore do not appreciate it, but about 25% react positive. The volunteers who pay those introductory house visits give information and advice and show the way to the help that is needed. I myself pay a visit when questions were asked that the volunteers cannot answer. In Archipel & Willemspark live a relatively high number of elderly people, according to estimation about 600 people in the age of 75 or older. So you might be able to figure out how many residents are 55+!

“I love the variation in my work: working with volunteers who visit residents at home, hostesses in Het Schakelpunt en ‘t Klokhuis, the contact with the local police officer and with the family wellfare organisation. I support the “telephone circle” in which residents who live alone or cannot leave the house can take part. Participation means a daily contact with other residents and when necessary helpers can be warned. Besides I organize informative meetings, take part in the steering committee of Het Schakelpunt (in cooperation with the residents’ organisation, Florence and Staedion) and I coordinate the various gym-groups in ‘t Klokhuis, Het Schakelpunt and in De Heldenhoek. Family caregivers can come to me for advice or support.”

As payed professional support is ever more economized Matthias addresses the growing need for volunteers who can make house calls, take seniors for a walk or do shopping for or with an elderly person. Therefore he would like to meet A&W residents who can and will spare the time to become a volunteer. He will welcome initiatives from the neighbourhood.

Do you have an idea for new fun activities for seniors in our neighbourhood? Please contact Matthias!
Tel. 06-43395289. Via ‘t Klokhuis 070-3503511. Or mail to:  m.wenzel@zebrawelzijn.nl

23 May 2016, Josephine de Vijlder