Watch over my Parents, a “new service, in which customers pay for postal workers to check on their elderly relatives during morning rounds, has been hailed as a clever solution to the modern epidemic of loneliness… [It is] part of a new strategy for the French post office as it tries to find a joint solution to two very different challenges; the growing number of elderly people living alone; and a decline in letter-writing in the digital era, which means France is looking for new ways to make a profit from its 73,000 postal workers. In 1990, delivering letters accounted for 70% of the state post service’s turnover; in 2020 it will be less than 20%.”
“Customers – often in their 50s and living in major cities – pay from €20 (£18) a month for postal workers to visit their parents living alone far away. Visits can be weekly or more regular, with a report delivered to the family and an option of a 24-hour helpline and alert system.”
“But some trade unionists have cautioned that people should not have to pay for something that used to happen informally for free.”
For us, it’s not a problem for postal workers to keep an eye on older people, because many of us already did that. But if it is a paid-for service, that excludes some people who can’t afford it, and affects the notion of public service.”
—Pascal Frémont, a postal worker in Loire-Atlantique for 15 years
How might we piggyback on, or pivot existing services to serve new needs?
How might we ensure the provision of care and services to those in need while avoiding a slide into socially repugnant transactional relationships and systems?