This innovative retirement home in the Netherlands lets old and young generations interact and learn from each other by offering free rent to college students. At the six-story, yellow-brick Humanitas building near Amsterdam, students spend at least 30 hours per month earning their keep. They serve meals, offer classes, attend events such as residents’ birthday parties, and chat at the bedsides of senior citizens. 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.
Six students currently live at the facility, which houses about 160 senior citizens. The program was developed in response to student complaints about noisy and dilapidated on-campus housing at nearby universities. The students say the only difficult part of living at the facility is watching their elderly friends develop illnesses and pass away. Administrators say having the students around lowers the likelihood of residents suffering health problems related to social isolation. “The students bring the outside world in,” says one administrator. “There is lots of warmth in the contact.”