Humanitas, a nursing home in the Netherlands introduced a fresh spin: offering rent-free housing to students who spend 30 hours a month socializing with older residents.
Humanitas CEO Gea Sijpkes, like so many who are challenged with doing more with less, initiated the program--and it has been a success. "I think that the student influence changes the whole tone of the conversations here, so that it's not only about death, sickness and old age, but also about youth, about parties, about girlfriends.
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. (PBS.org April 2015).
The benefits seem undeniable, and similar models have cropped up around the world, including in Cleveland, Ohio at a residential home called Judson Manor. Artists-in-Residence from the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Cleveland Institute of Music cohabitate with elderly housemates in a revamped 1920s hotel in exchange for occasional recitals. Case Western Reserve plans on joining the program in the near future.
While students may initially be attracted by the free rent (and institutions to the ancillary housing), this innovative housemate situation fosters community mindedness and gives younger people a deeper understanding of the wisdom of their elders and what they have to offer.