College kids need financial help and the elderly need youthful companions. Humanitas is a social service organization in the Netherlands that has found a way to combine these two needs and provide free rent for students and a happier, more social life for seniors.
Six lucky students get free rent at a retirement home located in the Dutch town of Deventer in exchange for spending at least 30 hours a month with the 160 senior residents that live there. The students do a multitude of tasks with the elderly residents, including preparing meals, shopping, creating art, teaching them how to use the computer, playing games and even attending birthday parties.
One of the largest issues the elderly face is isolation, the college students help solve that problem and even reduce the chance of residents developing heath problems related to social isolation. One administrator said, “The students bring the outside world in. There is lots of warmth in the contact.”
The Deventer retirement home is located near Amsterdam in a six-story yellow-brick building. The program was originally created after many students complained about the dilapidated on-campus housing available at the local universities.
The only complaint the students currently living at the retirement home bring up is becoming close to the elderly and then watching them develop diseases and pass away. On a positive note, at least they have the opportunity to give the elderly a better life while they are still here.
The CEO of Humanitas Deventer, Gea Sijpkes, is credited with the creation of the program. The amazing idea has sparked a movement throughout Europe, opening up similar opportunities elsewhere.
Gea Sijpkes said, “When you’re 96 years old with a knee problem, well, the knee isn’t going to get any better. But what we can do is create an environment where you forget about the painful knee.”