In a yellow-brick building in Deventer, Netherlands, college students and senior citizens share a living space as part of a unique “intergenerational” project that benefits everyone involved.
The Humanitas retirement home allows students to live there rent-free, with only one stipulation: they have to spend at least 30 hours a month with the home’s senior citizens. So far, a total of six college students have moved in.
“They go see the pensioners for a chat, they play games, go with them to the shopping centre, (and) do shopping for those who can’t,”
says Arjen Meihuizen, the home’s activity coordinator.
Gea Sijpkes, head of the Humanitas retirement home, stressed the importance of keeping senior citizens socially connected as they age:
“It’s important not to isolate the elderly from the outside world,”
Recent budget cuts by the Dutch government have made it more difficult for senior citizens to find subsidized housing, leaving retirement homes with many vacancies.
Humanitas’ “intergenerational” living project is a way to fill those vacancies while benefiting all of their residents, both young and old.
The students cook meals for the elderly patrons and plan activities for them based on their interests. For example, when a number of seniors became curious about graffiti, a student named Jordi took them outside with spray-paint and pieces of cardboard to help them learn more about the art form.
Jurrien, another student, gives weekly computer lessons to an 85-year-old resident named Anton Groot Koerkamp.
“Now I can send emails, go on the internet, look up videos and go on Facebook,”
Koerkamp declared proudly in a recent interview.
The students seem to be more than happy with the arrangement as well.
“Not only do I not pay any rent, but I also like working with the elderly,”
says 22-year old journalism student Denise. Jurrien — the student who gave the computer lessons — adds,
“For €400 ($438) I’d get barely 10 square metres (100 square feet) and I’d have to share the kitchen and bathroom. Here I have twice as much space and I have my own kitchen and bathroom.”
Huminatas’ creative new idea has resonated not only in the Netherlands but across Europe. Similar projects have sprung up in the countries of France, Spain and the UK, among others.
Read the full story from The Journal of Ireland.