The program started two years ago when student Onno Selbach contacted the nursing home, Humanitas, because he was frustrated that his school’s housing was too loud and poorly maintained. Now students live at the nursing home in small, rent-free apartments in exchange for a minimum of 30 hours a month of acting as “good neighbors,” according to PBS NewsHour. So what falls under the “good neighbors” category? A lot of fun and easy stuff including watching sports, celebrating birthdays, playing games, and just being there when an elderly resident is sick. All of the activities – especially the last one – help keep feelings of loneliness to a minimum. “The students bring the outside world in, there is lots of warmth in the contact,” shared Gea Sijpkes, who runs the Netherlands nursing home.
The program is being hailed as a great benefit to the elderly, but we think that this process benefits the students just as much, and not just their wallets. This arrangement allows college students, soon to be the adults of society, an invaluable chance to learn from the perspectives of a generation that will not be here forever. It also gives students an opportunity to escape peer pressure or crazy college hijinks that may ultimately be a detriment to their studies.
We hope that this practice becomes widespread so that both sides can learn from each other and grow in community, but until then we will attempt to get our jaws off the floor. This is such a brilliant idea, especially when you read about elderly people who are so neglected they are literally crying out and wailing in despair.
UPDATE: As a musician, your correspondent finds this even more awesome, and wishes he’d had this opportunity, himself. The facility, a former hotel, is gorgeous and the elderly community seems wonderful. Cleveland music students earn their keep through performances. This is a really nice report.
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