We want to go to there: Retirement home offers free rent for students

Free rent is good. Being a kind human is great. Combining those two is downright incredible, and that is just what the Dutch retirement home, Humanitas, is doing for college students right now. In exchange for hanging out with the home’s residents, the retirement home provides a creative housing program for students that solves so many problems for everyone involved. It literally is a win-win situation.

The folks at the Deventer, Netherlands, senior home offer small apartments where students can live, in exchange for 30 hours a month of “service.” Calling it service might be a bit of an overstatement. All it really means is that for a free crib, students commit to hanging out with the permanent residents of the retirement, officially making this arrangement the best gig ever.

To earn their keep, students might serve meals, go to birthday parties, sit with their sick friends, watch sports, or offer lessons and classes. According to the site My Modern Met, “When a group of residents expressed interest in learning about graffiti, one of the students took them outside with cardboard and spray paint to let them experiment with the art form.”

Aside from making friends and just generally upping the kindness quotient in the world, the students are actually saving the retirees from serious problems. PBS reports, “Both 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.” Administrators for the home say, “The students bring the outside world in, there is lots of warmth in the contact.”

The only downside is that students who form bonds with the permanent residents often have to grapple with their passing or watch them suffer from long-term illness. This takes a keen maturity, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Administrators tell My Modern Met, “having the students around lowers the likelihood of residents suffering health problems related to social isolation.”

Currently, Humanitas has 160 permanent residents and six student residents, but that is likely to change once it gets out how fulfilling this exchange can be. The program started a few years ago when student Onno Selbach, was having challenges living in the university dorm. Noisy neighbors, dirty bathrooms, and little privacy prompted a call to Humanitas head Gea Sijpkes, and the rest is history. 

Sijpkes joked that the living situation is ideal for both the students and seniors, since the students can come and go as they please without disturbing the residents, who are mostly hard of hearing, anyway.

It’s really amazing that no one has thought to do this in an American setting, but we’re actually not too far behind our European counterparts. PBS says, “Similar intergenerational programs exist in Lyons, France and Cleveland, Ohio . . .  One program that began in Barcelona, Spain in the late 1990s has been replicated in more than 20 cities throughout the country.”

Honestly? This sounds pretty amazing to us.

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