Getting older can be tough. On top of all the physical health problems aging adults face, loneliness is a factor that poses real health concerns. Being alone at an old age can contribute to and worsen depression, and a study at the University of California, San Francisco found people who reported feelings of loneliness faced quicker health declines and died earlier than those who didn't.
One nursing home in the Netherlands is addressing social needs of its residents in a unique way: by inviting college students to live with them. Residential and Care Center Humanitas in the town of Deventer allows six university students to live in its empty rooms in exchange for 30 hours of service, and residents of both age groups have reported getting a lot out of the program.
Matthew Kaplan, a professor of intergenerational programs and aging at Pennsylvania State University, told CityLab that "the one-shot-only activity, where kids come into the long-term care facility, sing a song and then go home" don't have the same kind of impact as programs that allow people to build meaningful relationships. "It's not until [the older and younger people] have a real relationship—which takes a lot of interaction—that it becomes meaningful," he explained.
Intergenerational housing provides older residents with a connection with the world beyond the nursing home and lets younger students make friends with people with a bit more wisdom than what their peers usually have to offer. One nurse recalled how a student was able to calm down a resident who had become extremely agitated because of the connection they'd developed.
Mixing up housing and focusing on building communities has helpful impacts on everyone. The model has been brought to the U.S., where some students at the Cleveland Institutes of Art and Music live in Judson Manor and volunteer at the residence.