Sylvia Bellamy has used La Poste’s Veiller sur mes parents (“keep an eye on my parents”)service for almost two years for her father George Bellamy, 96, who lives in south west France.
She set up the system remotely after leaving France and said it is reassuring.
Her father, a retired pilot, lives alone and “likes the company” of visits, she said.
The service allows family to check that all is OK and the elderly person often finds comfort in having someone to chat with.
Mrs Bellamy has met the visiting post ladies who have became friends with her father. She said: “It’s very friendly.
They come, have a cup of tea and chat…” They also give him his mail and post letters for him if needed.
For Mrs Bellamy, “it’s a brilliant idea for relatives who are not here. The update messages are in French but I just use a translation programme to get the details. Other countries should think about this”.
The service launched in May 2017 and now has thousands of people signed up.
It costs €19.90 per month and staff will visit while on their postal rounds and stay for a chat between one and six times a week, dependent on the needs of the older person.
Relatives then receive a message via an app letting them know if anything is needed in the home and general news on their family member.
A tele-assistance service is also available for the same price – or there is a joint offer for €37.90. With tele-assistance, specially-trained operators are available 24/7 to offer advice, emergency help or even just to have a chat at the press of a button on a connected device that can easily be carried around the home.
The services aim to allow older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible and ensure their well-being.
They also help stave off the problems of loneliness that can hit older people when family move away and perhaps friends are no longer nearby or alive.
The visiting post staff stay and chat for up to 10 minutes and ask questions on the person’s health and if they need shopping etc.
Families provide a list of contacts – including someone living nearby – who can step in in urgent situations.
Postal staff have been given special training for the role and it makes use of the fact that they already make daily visits to a large proportion of the population.
They often have extra time as the number of letters has diminished because of emails and texts, and they pass homes most days of the week.
La Poste is also starting to roll out a free service which locates nearby home help services, such as cleaners.
This is currently available only in Ile-de-France.
Up to €10k help to stay independent for longer
La Poste is not the only service provider that offers older people help to live in their own homes independently for as long as possible.
French government agency the Agence nationale de l’habitat (Anah) will finance up to 50% of the cost of necessary home adaption work, such as the installation of an electric stairlift or the exchange of a bath for a walk-in shower, up to a maximum €10,000.
Its Habiter facile scheme is means-tested.
For those on “very modest” incomes (tax income for a single person of less than €20,470 in the Ile-de-France region and €14,790 elsewhere), Anah can finance up to half of the total amount (excluding tax) of the works, up to a maximum €10,000.
For those who are slightly better off (less than €24,918 in the Ile-de-France region and €18,960 in the rest of the country for a single person), this assistance amounts to 35% of the total (excluding tax), up to a maximum of €7,000.
If the work carried out as part of Habiter facile leads to a reduction in energy consumption of at least 25%, this aid can be combined with another bonus, known as the Habiter mieux grant.