Sometimes we need to look beyond our borders to see what’s possible for caregivers in residential care communities.
College tuition has risen to stratospheric levels making higher education almost unaffordable. The problem near Amsterdam is worse. Students can’t even find a place to live due to a housing shortage.
What if college students lived for free in an elder housing complex?
It seems crazy at first. How do you combine the youthful virility and beer-drinking with elders in their 80s and 90s?
We’ll never know unless we try it. And that’s just what the CEO of Humanitas did in the Netherlands.
“… the Dutch senior citizens who live at Humanitas invited Jordi and five other students to move in rent free.”
Humanitas CEO, Gea Sijpkes, says, “I want it to be the warmest and most pleasant residence in Deventer.”
All she asked is that the students spend 30 hours a month with the residents. An hour a day? It’s a done deal! Six students in their 20s and elders in their 80s and 90s. What a novel idea!
College can’t teach the life lessons these students are learning.
They’d have to live another 60 years or live with Grandma and Grandpa. Besides, this is something new and interesting. Meanwhile, the elders, many who are just kids in aging bodies, are reliving their youth.
The change of pace does both of them good.
The students enjoy the residents’ playful meddling and opinions about their girlfriends. It likely works, because they don’t share family history. The elders benefit from the students’ kindness and youthful vigor. Illness and dying periodically take a back seat to a little partying (beer pong, anyone?), flirting (pats on the students’ behinds), and other youthful endeavors.
Instead of letting their minds settle into a ho-hum routine of their final years in a residential care home, the elders are learning new things. The students enjoy teaching them while anchoring their own learning. These residents came of age at a time when one went to the local library to finger through drawers of index-sized card catalogues to find a needed resource. Instead, one woman learns how to access the world’s information online using a book-sized device called a tablet. Of course, learning would be no fun without extracurricular activities. It’s funny to listen to an 84-year old newly enlightened woman describe how to play beer pong.
In the end they all hang out and feel like family.
When the residents who live with dementia forget and repeat the same question, the students reach out with compassion. They try to comfort them when they’ve lost so much – their families, their identities, and their memories.
The students, who would typically race through life toward their futures, learn to slow down and appreciate the little things. They even learn the value of life by growing aware of death after losing their older friends.
I want a room at Humanitas when I can no longer live alone safely.
I want to enjoy a sprinkle of youthful vitality during my last years. We are in store for unimaginable elder care options, whether it be college students staying with residents at Humanitas or a pre-school housed in a retirement home in Seattle, Washington. The future looks bright if we keep our minds open to trying new things and are willing to tweak them as we work out the bugs.
Watch the full 22-minute video (includes a commercial near the beginning) at SBS Dateline’s My 93-year-old Flatmate:
A 3-minute version of the video is on Facebook: