Bringing care back to the home to help those with reduced mobility
Delivering care to those who are homebound helps fight social isolation among vulnerable people. It also contributes to regional economic development.
For some people, doing errands, seeing the doctor, filling out an administrative form or simply getting around can be difficult and exhausting. Senior citizens, who in France number 15.6 million according to the INSEE national statistics office, are by far the group that is most likely to have trouble getting out of the house. People with disabilities, parents with children who have no means of transport and low-income individuals also suffer from decreased levels of mobility, especially if they live in rural or peri-urban areas. It is estimated that around seven million French people have mobility issues. Home care services are starting to become a recognised solution for combating the involuntary isolation of people with limited mobility. In the countryside, where nearly one-third of people over 75 reside, the fight against solitude has become a critical concern. Different initiatives are now making it possible to bring a wide range of services closer to people’s homes, in fields as varied as medicine, health care, telecommuting, culture, entertainment, administrative services and food.
Local social networking services
The introduction of new technologies has ushered in a host of novel initiatives, particularly in the field of neighbourhood services and home care. Private enterprises have taken up the baton from government social welfare agencies, creating new jobs along the way. The number of start-ups dedicated to home care delivery is blossoming. One such firm, Bip Pop, reconnects vulnerable people – the elderly, the disabled and, more generally, anyone who is unable to do things independently – to their community. Users of the service have access to a support network and a variety of services, including shopping delivery and companion visits. Bip Pop puts service requesters into contact with service providers via website or mobile app. “This application creates convivial intergenerational ties between neighbours, friends, benevolent neighbours, family caregivers, volunteers, medical and personal assistance providers, public services and businesses,” said Bip Pop founder Anne Guenand.
An economic opportunity
One of the consequences of shifting care back to the home is the development of personal assistance services. The caregiver of tomorrow will be able to deliver meals, assist with personal hygiene, provide errand assistance and teach people to use digital tools. “It opens up a wealth of possibilities and represents a fantastic economic opportunity,” said Victoria Tortosa, founder of La Exclusiva, a Spanish logistics company that delivers basic services to rural areas. Every day she and her husband drive 250 kilometres across the remote countryside of Soria in Castile and León in one of her vans. Their mission is to provide isolated villagers with food, medicine and anything else they can’t find close to home. Founded in 2014, La Exclusiva already supplies 10,000 families. “We don’t just deliver bread. We help ease the social isolation of these populations by bringing them the same services they would have in the city,” said Ms Tortosa, adding that Soria is one of Europe’s most sparsely populated areas, with eight residents per square kilometre. The scheme is so successful that about 100 seniors have moved out of their retirement facilities and back into their homes. Now they can receive goods at home for the same price they would have paid at the store. That’s because the supplier pays for the cost of delivery. “It’s a good deal for the vendors because they bring in new business,” said Ms Tortosa, “which allows them to keep their local shop open.” Customers located throughout the region place their orders online, over the phone or even using WhatsApp.