Today’s Rent-Saving Solution: Move Into An Old-Age Home

The Netherlands has the best ideas, doesn’t it? Combine access to amazing art museums, Indonesian food, and legal weed. Put food and drink options in palatial libraries. Fund the hell out of your canals and public parks. And now, offer students the opportunity to live, rent-free, in sizable, comfy quarters — in a retirement community.

The university students pay no rent and in exchange spend at least 30 hours a month with some of the 160 elderly who live here, doing the things professional staff cannot always do — such as just hanging out.

“They go see the pensioners for a chat, they play games, go with them to the shopping centre, (and) do shopping for those who can’t,” says activity coordinator Arjen Meihuizen. …

The students in Deventer prepare simple meals for some of the elderly in the evening and offer them activities according to their interests. Student Jordi, for instance, took a group into the garden and gave them cans of paint to spray on cardboard so they could learn about graffiti.

Jurrien gives weekly computer lessons to Anton Groot Koerkamp, 85. “Now I can send emails, go on the internet, look up videos and go on Facebook,” he said proudly.

There is no obligation for the elderly to take part in activities with the students. But many, like Jurrien’s neighbour Johanna, seem happy with the arrangement. “I’m old, he’s young, but we get along well,” she said. “We do small things, not much really, but it can help put them in a good mood,” said Jurrien.

Neither the young people nor the old people are walled off in a ghetto where they only interact with people like them. And the youngs don’t have to give that much up: they get their own kitchens, which many wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, and they’re still allowed autonomy, including the chance to have sleepovers.

The set up reminds me of the heartwarming based-on-a-true-story 2014 movie Pride, in which young queer Londoners take up a collection for striking miners in Wales and end up forming real relationships with people who become surrogate parents or grandparents. It also kind of reminds me of Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte was a lot older than Wilbur, right? But living together benefited them both. How long before someone options the rights to this story and turns it into a movie, or at least a sitcom?

Although I’ve never lived in an old-age home to save money, I did share a studio once with three other people: my boyfriend and another couple. The kitchen was so small there was barely enough room to turn around; the fridge didn’t even fit in there. Instead it shared the living space with the rest of us and the Nintendo that was our main source of entertainment, since no one had anything to spend on going out. Like many things you do once and for a limited time, it was more fun than it sounds.

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