“Like most of us, I’m afraid of getting old and of the loneliness that seems to come with old age. But maybe things don’t have to be that way.” —College student and Humanitas resident
Nobody wants to “end up in a nursing home.” But in a Dutch town near Amsterdam, one home is making institutionalized old age look good. The recipe: five college students and their occasional girlfriends sharing a normal life with residents.
It’s so simple.
This Is What Intergenerational Looks Like
Some time ago, Humanitas invited five students to come and live rent free at the nursing home, most of whose residents are in their 80s and 90s. Housing costs being what they are, five young men were happy yo move in. In exchange, they were asked to spend 30 hours a month being good neighbors. The rest of the time they could feel free to do what they want — including bring their dates home, if they can stand the gossip.
“Acting neighborly” at Humanitas can mean anything. As it turns out, one of the students likes riding residents around town on a tandem bicycle. Another stops by regularly to chat with the 93-year-old next door. And one has taught some of the community’s seniors how to play beer pong.
The game’s a big hit.
The relationships that are building at Humanitas are warm and playful, and add a layer of lightness to the place that no infusion of funds could have accomplished. And the students are learning from their elders: to appreciate the little things instead of being constantly running toward the future; to understand old age and death as part of life.
Watch this report by Australia’s SBS Dateline and ask yourself: Why aren’t there more residences like this? How come such a simple idea hasn’t found a home in the US? And what would it take to make it happen?
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