Today’s story is a wonderful story from the Netherlands about a way to help cash-strapped students while also alleviating the loneliness of the disconnected elderly. As PBS reports, the Humanitas retirement home has adopted a win-win scenario:

“A nursing home in the Netherlands allows university students to live rent-free alongside the elderly residents, as part of a project aimed at warding off the negative effects of aging.”

The students get to live in small, rent-free apartments in return for spending at least 30 hours a month acting as “good neighbours” to the elderly living at the retirement home.  The students do a number of activities with their elderly neighbours including watching sports, celebrating birthdays and offering company when senior fall ill. This is all extremely important since:

“…social isolation and loneliness in older men and women are associated with increased mortality, according to a 2012 report by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.”

Humanitas has undertaken this programme for the last two years after the manager of the retirement home received an inquiry from a student complaining about the noise and poor condition of school housing.  Currently the exchange has been taken up by six students from local universities who live in the retirement home with around 160 seniors. The students are allowed to come and go as they please as long as they obey the cardinal rule: do not be a nuisance to the elderly.

Humanitas is not the first retirement home to have done this in the world:

“Similar intergenerational programs exist in Lyons, France and Cleveland, Ohio, according to the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing. One program that began in Barcelona, Spain in the late 1990s has been replicated in more than 20 cities throughout the country.”

These initiatives certainly seem to be a wonderful way to ensure that the elderly have company of younger generations day-to-day. These students can help the elderly with the shifting sands of modern culture, while the students can benefit from the wisdom of the elderly and being forced to think about someone outside themselves. As retirement homes become more in demand, perhaps schemes like this will become more popular and necessary.

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...