How do demographic transition and unbalanced population decline affect social support systems of elderly? a pilot-study on Eastern-Groningen, the Netherlands

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The structure and financing of collective long-term care and support in the Netherlands changed dramatically with the introduction of the Social Support Act (WMO) the 1st of January 2015. This act arranged that municipalities assist people to live in their homes for as long as possible by providing various forms of aid and support. This aid and support however, is in addition to the help that people arrange for themselves and / or receive in the form of volunteer aid (mantelzorg) by family, friends and neighbours. Furthermore under this Act people only become eligible for state financed sheltered accommodation in the exceptional case of severe physical or mental illness.
The fact that under the new regime of the Social Support Act municipal support is made additional to volunteer aid, it is important to understand what role family, friends and neighbours potentially can play and in fact do play. This is especially important in regions were unbalanced population decline through out-migration of young people, effectively changes social structures and accelerates the ageing of the population. For this reason we designed a limited pilot-study to test the possibilities and the necessity of a broader study focussing on potential and every day practice concerning volunteer aid for elderly in regions characterized by unbalanced population decline. In this pilot study we will focus on a rural municipality in the north of the Netherlands: Oldambt.
Within the framework of this pilot-study we focussed on living arrangements and social network of two groups of senior citizens; one group of men and women aged 65-79 and one group aged 80 years and over. Based on demographic data kindly made available by the municipal office of Oldambt, in this paper we will draw a picture of these citizens living in the municipality. Going deeper into the material and the municipality’s structure we will than focus on one of the municipality’s communities, Finsterwolde, with its village, hamlets and surrounding rural area. For the purpose of this pilot-study we constructed a sample of 30 men and women aged 80+-elderly and asked them to fill in a questionnaire. Based on the outcomes of these questionnaires we than had five in-depth interviews with some of them. Finally, on the basis of the gathered material, we will draw some general conclusions while presenting some new questions for further research into the living conditions and social support systems for elderly in a region with unbalanced population decline and accelerated ageing.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
Publication statusUnpublished - 30 Aug 2018
EventThe 58th ERSA-Congress : Places for People: Innovative, Inclusive and livable Regions - University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
Duration: 28 Aug 201831 Aug 2018


ConferenceThe 58th ERSA-Congress
Abbreviated titleERSA
Internet address


  • demographic transition
  • elderly
  • social networks
  • rural areas
  • eastern groningen
  • netherlands


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