A new pattern in long-term care in Hungary: Skype and youth volunteers


  • Zsuzsa Széman Institute for Sociology, Centre for Social Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences


Skype, young volunteers, loneliness, intergenerational relationship, care


This paper presents the results of a model programme in Hungary designed to test the hypothesis that internet-illiterate elderly people receiving long-term care at home would cease to feel lonely if they could learn to use Skype. The research had positive results: older people learnt to use Skype, and communication via Skype not only strengthened family and interpersonal relations but also improved the elderly persons’ mental state without the need for physical activity on the part of the carers. A new element of the action research was the inclusion of young 14–16-year-old volunteers. It was the transfer of knowledge from the youngest actors that enabled this change in the network of contacts and the mental state of the elderly people. The rapid and positive result of the transfer is linked to the regular voluntary activity, in a new form of “playful” volunteering. For the young people, the volunteering (a subject they take at school) became enjoyable, not just something they had to do. Through the young people, sick home-bound elderly people were successfully integrated into society, and new intergenerational relationships were formed. The research found a way to involve a potential new human care resource, teenagers, in eldercare.