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Video of the Week: My 93-Year-Old Flatmate

 

“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?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

6 comments
  • Linder
    REPLY

    Absolute brilliance!! Meaningful inter-generational interaction. A true win win. Much better than just bringing in a group of elementary school children to perform which is typical “inter-generational” programming at US senior housing/assisted living.

  • Shari
    REPLY

    I agree with both Lori and Carole, both on the crying and the need for this in the US. I’m not nearly as young as these college students, but if allowed I’d be one of the first to apply. WONDERFUL concept. So glad it didn’t stay only in the “idea” realm.

  • Carole
    REPLY

    It would be a blessing to have this idea taking place in the USA. It is wonderful for the students as well as the members of the assisted living home. This idea needs to be presented to the Health Department in every major city and to the appropriate State agency.

  • Adela
    REPLY

    I agree with you Lori. This is a tremendously wonderful idea! Even if no interaction between the young and the elderly there, just by seeing them around it would also take away from their minds the sad ideas of their loneliness and knowing they are only a step away from the end. It would instill in them a virtual youthfulness! :o) I hope more will take up this great idea especially in America. :-)

  • Lori Kemp
    REPLY

    This made me cry. My mom recently passed away at the age of 97. She lived in an assisted living cottage with seven other residents, most of whom were elderly. Mom would have absolutely loved living in an intergenerational home like this one! Part of the problem with assisted living homes is the shortage of young people. They visit, they just don’t live there. If they lived there, you would see the long term relationships develop that we see in the video. I love this idea! I hope it somehow spreads to the United States.

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