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T +31 (0)30 239 01 00, info@uvh.nl

Ageing well

Humanist Tradition, Meaning in Life and Ageing Well


Together with members from the Research Methodology and Theory of Sciences group, the group focuses its research on existential issues of ageing well.

The societal challenge Health, demographic change and wellbeing is obviously important for the future of Europe. However, the question how to interpret and evaluate health and wellbeing - in the context of unprecedented demographic change and the need for positive meaningful ideals for ageing – is vitally important.


The perspectives of meaning in life and mental resilience, while crucial, are very often neglected or ignored, as are the differences and inequalities among the elderly resulting from social structures. Although (macro-)narratives on the elderly and ageing are important in our culture, on the one hand they tend to be overshadowed by quasi precise calculations of the problem of ‘the’ elderly in terms of chronometric time, and on the other hand are downplayed as highly personal autobiographical stories only.


A few examples to demonstrate the societal relevance of this approach:


Socially isolated elderly people
Preventing and fighting the social vulnerability of elderly persons remains an important topic in our research on ageing well. The project ‘Ervaren baat van interventies bij sociaal geïsoleerde ouderen met complexe problematiek’ (perceived benefit of interventions on behalf of socially isolated elderly with a complex set of problems) illustrates the societal relevance of this research. This project was paid for by MOVISIE and carried out by Anja Machielse in 2013-2014.

The project studies the effects of intensive personal assistance trajectories for socially isolated elderly people with a complex set of problems. The goal is to determine which elements and mechanisms make interventions aimed at this group a success. This knowledge can serve to justify interventions, to improve their quality and to give arguments for the selection of ‘best practices’. The research is carried out using the so-called ‘ervaren baat-benadering’ (perceived benefit approach). In this approach, clients themselves indicate what their problems were at the start of the intervention, and to what extent they have benefited from the intervention. At the same time the research is meant to evaluate the usefulness of this ‘ervaren baat-benadering’. The research is paid for by a grant from MOVISIE.


Existential questions of the elderly
Another example of a societally relevant research project is the research that Wander van der Vaart started in January 2013 in the context of the Expertisenetwerk Levensvragen en Ouderen (Expert Network Existential Questions and the Elderly). This network comprises the following organisations from the care sector: ActiZ, Agora, Humanistisch Verbond, LOC Zeggenschap in zorg, MOgroep, Protestants Christelijke Ouderenbond (PCOB), Reliëf, Unie KBO, Vereniging Het Zonnehuis and Vilans. The Expert Network has been asked by the Institute for Healthcare Quality (Kwaliteitsinstituut) to develop a quality standard ‘dealing with existential questions of the elderly in long-term care’ for elderly care organisations. To help with this task, Van der Vaart and a few temporary researchers carried out a research project in the sector of elderly care (April-September 2013). In 2014 this resulted in a follow-up study (February-September), to be carried out in intramural as well as extramural settings. The sought-after quality standard (guidelines and provisional measures) will be formulated on the basis of this research and the researchers’ advice.

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