At Humanitas Deventer, an independent living home for seniors in the Netherlands, it’s not uncommon for an 80 or 90-year-old resident to have a 27-year-old neighbor. Students can live at Humanitas Deventer for free. All they have to do in return is spend 30 hours each month being a “good neighbor.”
27-year-old Patrick Stoffer is a graduate student at Saxion University. He’s one of about five students who live at Humanitas Deventer. During their 30 volunteer hours, the students teach the retirees skills like how to send an email or Skype, or just share a meal and a conversation. Many of the students have formed profound relationships with their elderly neighbors.
“At first I thought I’m just gonna help out a little bit, but you find out that these relationships are deeper than you would expect,” Stoffer said in a video. One of his roommates is 89-year-old Harry, a retiree, whom Stoffer describes as a “joker” who “knows how to handle the ladies.” They’ve become close friends.
One new aspect of living at Humanitas Deventer for the students is the closeness to death. Stoffer described how one of his friends in his hall passed away. While he’s had to confront death, he’s learned death is “also part of life.”
A lack of affordable housing in other university towns has inspired communities in other areas around the world to adopt intergenerational living models. One similar community is Judson Manor in Cleveland, Ohio, where music students live in a 1920’s luxury hotel converted into a senior home in exchange for playing music for the elderly residents.
Urban design student Jurriën Mentink shared his experiences at Humanitas Deventer in this TEDx talk – where do I sign up?