April 27, 2020 / 3:36 PM / a month ago

Belgian elderly get a lift from cherry-picking platforms

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Residents of a care home in Brussels got the chance to see family members in person for the first time since mid-March on Monday thanks to a raised platform normally used for window cleaning or picking cherries.

Tristan Van den Bosch, a manager at the company that rents out the platforms, said he realised his unused equipment could be put to good use during the coronavirus lockdown when driving past a care home in Antwerp two weeks ago.

“I saw someone shouting out to his mother two to three flights up and I thought, given that we have a serious fall in business, we can bring that man up to the window with our machines,” he told Reuters TV.

Van den Bosch put his plan into action for a couple of days this month at a nursing home in Antwerp. On Monday, residents at the Le Cinquantenaire home in Brussels got to benefit from his service.

“Unfortunately, all the residents are confined to their rooms,” said Laurent Nadin, Brussels director of nursing home company Orpea.

“The joint activities have ended. So today to give some comfort to the residents, we are lifting up their families so they can see them and get a bit of a boost.”

The visitors included Clementine Van Eijcke, 84, who came to see her husband, and Albert Camphyn, 58, who was raised up to his 98-year-old mother.

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Separated from the platform operator by a screen, up to two visitors could spend 15 minutes talking with their loved ones behind a window or on a balcony.

“It’s very good. We love it. It’s really a great way to get close to someone,” Camphyn said.

Quite how many more visits Van den Bosch will arrange is not clear. His company Group F picks up the bill for the drivers and was planning to meet later to discuss what to do.

Reporting by Bart Biesemans and Christian Levaux; writing by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Ed Osmond

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