Special Reports

Dutch University Students Get Free Housing In Exchange For Valuable Service To Elderly


Education costs, combined with the cost of housing, can be a too much for students to bear. Thanks to a housing program located in Netherlands, some Dutch students don't need to pay for their stay anymore. They also get to change the life of an elderly person, too.

Residential and Care Center Humanitas, a longterm care facility located in Deventer in Netherlands, is actually a retirement home for elderly people, the Independent reports. It opened its doors to Dutch university students, offering them free housing in exchange for just a little favor: 30 hours a month (roughly an hour per day, depending on the student's schedule) to spend with the senior-aged residents living in the facility.

The idea of letting students stay to take care of senior-aged individuals came by concerns regarding the cost of aged care as well as student housing in Netherlands, Humanitas Deventer CEO Gea Sijpkes told ABC. The government stopped funding care costs for those aged 80 and above in 2012, and student housing increased from 341 Euros per month in 2012 to 366 Euros today.

"I want to be the warmest and nicest house where every elderly person wants to live," Sijpkes said. "But I thought, how can I accomplish that? If you do that with staff, then it costs a lot."

"If you do that with students, then there is a social return on investment against loneliness." Sijpkes continued. "That's the idea."

So far, there are six university students living in the retirement home, all of them living as "neighbors" to the aged men and women residents. All of them commit to give time to their older neighbors, either to accompany them to watch sports, prepare their meals, celebrate birthdays, keep them company when they're sick, or teach them skills such as emailing, social media, using Skype, making graffiti art, or even spending unstructured time together.

"When I get home from school or work, I visit my neighbour for an hour or so," Jurriën Mentink, a 19-year-old resident at the care home, said. "Elderly people are full of life. As a student, you can learn a lot."

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