Nursing Homes Are Opening Doors To Students, And The Results Benefit All

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Life can be tough when you’re a student, especially if, like many, you’re paying your own way. Finding housing is difficult and expensive, and many find it hard to balance rigorous studies with a job.

Elsewhere, seniors living in retirement communities also face challenges. Many find it isolating to be separated from the world and from people of different ages, and while the staff does their best, it can also be tough to get the help and attention they need, especially if the staff is small.

We don’t tend to think of college kids and seniors in the same breath, but as a few nursing homes in Europe and the U.S. are showing us, maybe we should start.

It’s no secret that seniors are dull of great stories and timeless advice, like the two elderly men who taught the world what it really means to be lifelong friends.

Humanitas is a national volunteer organization in the Netherlands, and it runs a retirement home but not just any retirement home…

Noticing that the residents were feeling lonely and isolated, and knowing that these feelings greatly damage the physical and mental health of seniors, the organizers started looking for a solution.

And they came up with one that not only helped the old, but the young, too.

Read on to see what they came up with, and how it’s enriching everyone’s lives!

[H/T: PBS, Citylab, The Atlantic, The Journal of Ireland]


Humanitas is not your typical retirement home because its residents aren’t just seniors.

Knowing that seniors living in retirement communities faced loneliness and isolation which lead to depression and increased mortality rates and that students were struggling to afford decent housing, Humanitas decided to simply combine the needs.

In 2015, six students from Saxion and Windesheim universities in the Netherlands moved into the retirement home. The students didn’t have to pay rent, either.

Instead, they were required to spend at least 30 hours per month with the senior residents, being “good neighbors.”

The students hold workshops, help with activities, and simply spend time talking and getting to know the seniors.

The students get life lessons and advice, and the seniors feel more connected to the world. And everyone gets the benefit of a different perspective on things!

The students are also allowed to come and go as they please and have guests, but must be respectful of their elderly neighbors.

And the seniors were all too happy to learn about the latest trends and technologies.

With the students’ help, several of them learned some computer skills, allowing them to stay in better touch with family, and some even tried their hand at some graffiti art with spray paint!

“We do small things, not much really,” said one of the Dutch students, “but it can help put them in a good mood.”

And the practice of combining universities and retirement homes has caught on in the U.S., too…

In Cleveland, OH, the Judson Smart Livingretirement home has also adopted this practice.

They’ve teamed up with the Cleveland Institute of Music, and allow students to live there for free in exchange for heading the residence’s cultural programs.

The residents can perform, study, and learn about music, and Judson reports that the program has caused deep and lasting friendships to blossom.

It’s the same in the Netherlands at Humanitas, as well as in the 20 or so other retirement homes to partner with local colleges around the world.

And even more are looking for other ways to better integrate the senior population with the rest of the community.

Former British care minister Paul Burstow summed it up when he said, “Care homes that are cut off from their communities aren’t real homes.”

At Humanitas and Judson, the friendships formed show that despite being decades apart in age, connections can be made anywhere.

After seeing the success of programs like these, as well as ones in France, Spain, and elsewhere, many hope that these intergenerational programs will catch on, and help both young and old people feel more connected to one another, and learn to better value and cherish one another.

In fact, one student became so close with a resident at Judson that she invited her to be a flower girl at her wedding.

When the resident couldn’t make it, Judson instead threw her their own wedding party!

It’s connections like these that really make a community. You can learn more about Judson’s intergenerational program on their website.

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