Students living in nursing homes – a solution to our aging populations?

In today’s society both young and old increasingly find themselves living in a bubble of like-minded and similar-aged peers. This is especially true of university students who leave home at 18 to live with people of the same age – who have quite often had similar life experiences.

Given this, the report that a Dutch nursing home has established a programme providing free rent to university students in exchange for 30 hours a month of their time “acting as neighbours” with their aged residents is unusual.

The programme has seen students in their early twenties sharing lives with residents in their eighties and nineties. As part of their volunteer agreement, the students also spend time teaching residents new skills – like how to email, use social media, Skype, and even graffiti art.

Reducing loneliness

The incentive behind Humanitas Deventer’s “exchange” programme is the research basethat shows that reducing loneliness and social isolation improves well-being and extends life expectancy in the elderly.

And though research on the impact on students seems yet to be explored, from my own experience of running a similar project at the University of Exeter, I know that it is overwhelmingly positive – giving young people a sense of connection with older generations, and significantly increasing the likelihood that they will continue to volunteer after university.

Since 2011 student volunteers from the university’s Department of English and Film donate their time to bring conversation, literature, and friendship to the residents of over ten residential care homes across the city. And since the project’s inception it is estimated that around 250 active volunteers have reached over 500 elderly residents – at least half of whom have dementia.

Reading between the lines

The Care Homes Reading Project draws upon the natural skill set of its target volunteer community – which includes a love of reading and an understanding of the power of literature to impact lives positively [ . . .  ] Read Fully Story at World Economic Forum

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