Friendship, fun and better surroundings for the elderly

Retirement is seen as a time to rest and enjoy the rewards of a busy working life, but for many elderly people it can be lonely and lacking in friendship.

So doctor Ester Berthelot decided to open Stichting Het Raadhuis – a center providing activities, education and companionship for elderly people living close to Arnhem, the Netherlands. This includes teaching the elderly how to use technology such as iPads, as well as sessions for listening to music, painting and dance classes.

Some renovation work was needed at the building used by the Raadhuis and a team of 13 colleagues from the Global Business Services Finance team in Arnhem and AkzoNobel Corporate decided to help by providing practical support and organizing a social event.

Project coordinators Maria Petrova and Gerard Slotboom explained: “The Raadhuis has a great social impact on the neighborhood. It’s an important meeting point for the elderly. We believe it’s most important for elderly people to be active and enjoy time together, and we decided that supporting the foundation with painting and social time would add significant value.”

As well as the AkzoNobel volunteers, a group of refugees from the Asielzoekerscentrum (AZC) in Arnhem were invited to be part of the day as a way to help integrate them into Dutch society and introduce them to the community while being part of a good social cause.

The session began with a delicious lunch prepared by Hanneke, one of AkzoNobel’s HR Business Partners, helped by other members of the group. She made two special halal salads, as well as sandwiches, which were enjoyed by all. The group of refugees also spoke about where they had come from and said they were very happy to be invited to join the event.

After eating, the group got to work on painting the conservatory, constructing a garden bench and making a herb table. The bench, table and a croquet set were purchased with support from the Community Program, while Sikkens provided paint, brushes and other equipment for the practical work. There were also games, such as boules. Children, adults and the elderly alike had a wonderful afternoon enjoying each other’s company.

“At the end of the day, the elderly people had prepared apple cakes for us so we all enjoyed conversation at the table with tea and cake,” said Maria and Gerard. “It was great to see how the elderly and refugees were happy to spend time together – one of the refugees said it was great to enjoy time together and forget their sadness for a while.

“We are a new department and all of us are working in a project environment that makes it hard to feel we are one team. We hardly have a chance in our everyday activities to work all together, so this project at the Raadhuis was a great opportunity to get to know each better and learn how to perform effectively and efficiently as one group. It will help us cooperate successfully in the future.”

The team’s efforts were greatly appreciated by both the elderly and Ester Berthelot.

Ester said: “I would like to thank you for all your efforts in de Raadhuis. With your help, materials and paint our little office and the conservatory look wonderful. I think that the people from AZC had a very nice day, so thank you for that opportunity too.”