In the United States, we assume that retirement homes and communities are inhabited exclusively by senior citizens.
That’s not the case in the Netherlands, where nursing homes are increasingly offering something called “intergenerational” living — housing young people and seniors near each other for a truly unique environment.
According to CTV News, the Dutch government’s budget cuts for retirement living subsidies has left many retirement homes with more rooms than they can fill, leaving them to turn to younger generations.
In many cases, this intergenerational living scheme is beneficial to both parties. At one nursing home in Deventer, six university students partake in a unique project that gives them a free place to live. In exchange, they must each spend 30 hours weekly with any of the home’s 160 elderly residents, CTV News reports.
The students do what many nursing home staff are unable to do — just hang out with the seniors who live there. Seniors have someone to liven up their day with trips to the shopping mall or just a conversation. Students teach their elderly neighbors how to use the Internet and other types of technology. However, the seniors are never required to spend time with their nursing home’s younger residents if they don’t want to.
“I believe in a marketing and business plan that caters towards a slightly younger group of retired citizens, which offers a lower cost alternative living. Having higher functioning citizens and those in an assisted living situation can definitely increase the quality of life in both categories,” says Keith Blomquist, administrator for Maryland-based senior living community Singerly Manor.
For Dutch students, who often face student housing that’s small, dirty and expensive, the choice to move into a more spacious nursing home for free is easy. Living in a nursing home gives students their own bedroom and bathroom, something rare to find in a student apartment, CTV News reports.
The students also learn how to be better neighbors — if one comes home in the middle of the night and wakes a retired resident from his or her sleep, there’s obviously going to be a problem, one of the students explained to CTV News.
“One time I came back in the middle of the night and I woke my neighbor, she wasn’t very happy,” the student said. “So, being a good neighbor, I went and apologized and promised not to do it again.”