College students and senior citizens don’t often keep much company with each other. However, a few Dutch students are changing the tides by devoting a significant part of their daily lives to the elderly.
In Deventer, Netherlands, a handful of college students actually live at a local retirement home with about 160 elderly. As it turns out, a care home called Humanitas offers free room and board to college students who spend at least 30 hours per month serving and befriending the elderly residents.
Humanitas’ head, Gea Sijpkes, describes the students’ job as simply being “good neighbors.” Sijpkes claims, “The students bring the outside world in, there is lots of warmth in the contact.”
The students do a variety of activities with and for the residents at Humanitas, including helping make meals, teaching the residents how to use technology, celebrating their birthdays, and just being there to chat. These young people bring love and joy to a place otherwise full of loneliness.
According to a study conducted in 2012 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA, isolation and loneliness is associated with increased mortality for the elderly. The students at Humanitas are helping improve the quality of life for the senior citizens in their community.
This arrangement at Humanitas began in 2013 when Onno Selbach was tired of the poor living conditions of his university’s student housing. He reached out to Sijpkes, and the two worked together to create the program that has greatly benefited both local students and the senior citizen residents.
In response to an article on PBS, Jurriën Mentink, one of the Dutch students who lives at Humanitas, wrote, “It is a great and honorable thing to help, laugh and talk to my aging neighbours. To share in each others’ lives is just one of the best experiences I will carry my whole li[fe] as a young person.”
The elderly residents learn a lot from the young folk and are all the happier for their company. Watch the video below about Jurriën’s experiences at Humanitas and his friendship with a resident there named Anton.
A similar program exists in the U.S. in Cleveland, Ohio. At a retirement home called Judson Manor, students from the Cleveland Institute of Music live at the manor free of charge in exchange for regularly performing their music and teaching art therapy classes for the elderly residents.
A 93-year-old resident at Judson Manor shared: “We’ve all had wonderful children and they’re gone now. Children grow up and go to school and they are gone. Mine are spread out all over. But to live with young people and learn from them. It’s a whole new dimension to life.”
More and more students need financial aid, and more and more senior citizens are finding themselves lonely in their retirement homes. Programs like the ones at Humanitas and Judson Manor have provided a harmonious solution to both problems.