Warsha Jagroep is currently a PhD candidate at the Erasmus School of Health Policy and Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her main research interest centers on age-friendly neighbourhoods for older migrants in the Netherlands. In her PhD she aims to get insight into the relationship between neighbourhood characteristics and the health and well-being of older individuals with a migration background. In addition, she aims to understand how older individuals with a migration background experience their neighbourhood characteristics in terms of ageing in place, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to achieve these aims, she uses both quantitative as well as qualitative research.
The essential role of age-friendly neighbourhoods during a pandemic: A study among Surinamese older individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic
Warsha Jagroep, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Neighbourhoods can provide support responding to the needs of older individuals, which might be especially important during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In the Netherlands, research indicated that the relative risk of COVID-19 infection and mortality among individuals with a non-western migration background are higher compared to individuals with a native Dutch background, particularly in Amsterdam, the Hague and Rotterdam. This appears to be greater among individuals with a Surinamese background.
The aim of this study was to explore how older Surinamese individuals perceived their neighbourhood regarding age-friendliness during the COVID-19 pandemic. In reference to the eight age-friendly domains identified by the World Health Organization semi-structured interviews among 17 older Surinamese individuals (70 years and older) living in two municipalities (Rotterdam and the Hague) in the Netherlands were conducted. Participants were asked to share their views on the age-friendliness in their neighbourhood and how they perceived this during the pandemic.
Older Surinamese individuals highlighted both facilitating and hampering aspects of their neighbourhood regarding age-friendliness during the pandemic. Loss of emotional support during the pandemic was experienced by older Surinamese individuals, due to social distancing and cancellation of neighbourhood activities. However, participants indicated that they now received emotional support from home care professionals, which they did not experience before. Experiences with receiving support from neighbours during the pandemic varied among participants. Some older Surinamese individuals indicated that their neighbours helped them with grocery shopping and cooking. However, it was emphasised that they received this support from neighbours with whom they already had a good relationship before the pandemic.
Other participants expected more social support (e.g. asking how they are doing) from their neighbours. This highlights the importance of having a social network nearby. Cancellation of neighbourhood activities had a great impact on the daily lives of Surinamese older individuals as they had the feeling that they lost engagement with the local community. They felt that a safe place had been taken away from them and received nothing in return, which contributed to loneliness. It was challenging for participants to find replacement of meaningful activities by themselves. Some participants did indicate that they actively looked for activities in and around their home.
This study showed that age-friendly neighbourhoods can support older Surinamese individuals during a pandemic. However, not all Surinamese individuals had a broad social network nearby, which had an impact on the support which they received. In addition, not all participants had the capability to cope with a loss of activities which they attended before the pandemic. This indicates that they need support to stay engaged in community life.