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A nursing home in the Netherlands is offering rent-free accommodation to university students, provided that they spend at least 30 hours a week being “good neighbours” to the other residents – watching sports and celebrating birthdays with them, and more. And I think this has to be the best ageing population strategy I’ve ever heard of!

If there’s one kind of poverty we suffer in the developed world, it’s loneliness – most particularly in old age. Unlike poorer countries, which tend to have a tradition where elderly parents live with their children and grandchildren, the western world is all too happy to drop off Mum and Dad at a nursing home and visit on Sundays.

Of course this is a generalisation, but we cannot deny that it is a trend. I must point out that there are cases where a nursing home is necessary, when health issues cannot be looked after at home. But my parents have always shown us that where possible, it’s super important and great to have grandparents around.

Instead of pumping money into more lavish nursing homes, I think this idea from the Netherlands (which has had success in a few other European countries too) is beneficial on all fronts: it brings more love and attention into the lives of the elderly, all while teaching young people some valuable life lessons.

Interacting with the elderly can teach young people so much! They have to learn to slow down, to be patient, to empathise with others and to serve others, as well as realising how rewarding this can be. It’ll probably also show them that they can survive without being on social media 24/7 (and even if they post about the experience, it’d be great for other kids to see). 

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.