Their relationships are mutually beneficial.
Studies show that when elderly people are socially isolated they’re at a greater risk for physical and mental decline. Research also shows that when younger people develop relationships with the elderly it makes them more empathetic and broadens their perspectives on life. Now, a new program at a senior citizen living center in the Netherlands is helping to foster these relationships by giving grad students free apartments for living alongside its elderly residents.
At a retirement home in the Dutch town of Deveneter, six students receive free accommodations in exchange for spending 30 hours a month with its residents. The students prepare meals, give tech lessons, shop, and even create street art with the 160 seniors living in the home. “It’s important not to isolate the elderly from the outside world,” said Gea Sijpkes, the retirement home’s CEO. 27-year-old grad student Patrick Stoffer is surprised just how valuable his time in the community has been. “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 says.