In Singapore, the number of senior independent dwelling living has increased from 14,500 to 42,000 during 2000-2014. While the number of young people decreases continuously, the age group over 65 years who live independently is expected to increase up to 80,000 by the year of 2030. Due to the consequences arising from demographic change, such as poverty and loneliness among the elderly, there is an urgent need to find sustainable solutions to develop new forms of community housing and living.

Residential and Care Center Humanitas, a long term care facility in the riverside town of Denventer, in the eastern Netherlands, allows university students to live rent-free alongside the elderly residents, as part of the project aimed to benefit everyone. The demand of student accommodation has always been one of the unresolved issues in the Netherlands. For instance, Amsterdam was short of almost 9,000 students-rooms in the year 2014. In addition, the increased rental and poor living conditions have made it increasingly difficult for the students to come by a place to stay. Meanwhile, the Dutch government decided to cut down budget of long term care support for citizens over the age of 80 which made a large group of aging adults, especially those who had once benefited from a free-care services like Humanitas, unable to shoulder the cost.

Fig 1. Residential and Care Center Humanitas, a long term care facility in the riverside town of Deventer, Netherlands. (Source: Nieuwsbericht 2015)

Fig 1. Residential and Care Center Humanitas, a long term care facility in the riverside town of Deventer, in the eastern Netherlands. (Source: Nieuwsbericht 2015)

In exchange for small, rent-free apartments, the students are required to spend at least 30 hours per month with some of the 160 elderly who live here. According to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, both social isolation and loneliness especially in elderly men and women are associated with increased mortality [1]. The involvement of students bring the warmth and social bonding that offer company and stave off feelings of disconnectedness. The students help to create inter-generational activities with the older residents, including watching sports, celebrating festive occasions, offering interactive programmes according to the interest such as computer class, workshop, etc. 

Student interacts with elderly home residents at Humanitas with some art and craft workshop. (Source: Humanitas 2015)

Fig 2. Student interacts with elderly home residents at Humanitas with some arts and crafts workshop. (Source: Humanitas 2015)

 

20-year-old Denise serves coffee to some of the senior citizens at the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, Netherlands (Source: AFP / Nicolas Delaunay 2014)

Fig 3. 20-year-old Denise serves coffee to some of the senior citizens at the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, in the eastern Netherlands. (Source: AFP / Nicolas Delaunay 2014)

 

Student Jurriën Mentink samen met mevrouw van Beek in het woonzorgcentrum Humanitas in Deventer.

Fig 4. Student Jurriën Mentink samen helps mevrouw van Beek, one of the senior residents in Humanitas back to her room. (Source: Humanitas 2015) 

 

The new combination of elderly-student inter-generational living is begining to gain in popularity. Two more nursing homes in the Netherlands have been transformed into similar operations after the opening of Humanitas to students in 2012. Similar concept has been recently introduced in other countries, such as France and the United States. For Singapore, with the increasingly demand and preference for independent dwelling, such concepts of inter-generational living will definitely meet alternative social and emotional needs in adaption to the future changing demographics.

 

 

Notes and References:

[1] Steptoe A., Shankar A., Demakakos P. & Wardle J. (2013). Social Isolation, Loneliness, and All-cause Mortality in Older Men and Women, PNAS Online, Vol. 110 No.15. HighWire Press.

“ Dutch students can live in nursing homes rent-free,” The Journal.ie, December 7 2014. Accessed December 24, 2015 http://www.thejournal.ie/help-the-aged-1814698-Dec2014/

“ Dutch nursing homes offers rent-free housing to students,” PBS NewsHour, April 5 2015, Accessed December 24, 2015 http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/dutch-retirement-home-offers-rent-free-housing-students-one-condition/

“ Senior Housing Options – Making the Best Senior Living Choices,” Helpguide.org, October 2015, Accessed December 24, 2015 http://www.helpguide.org/articles/senior-housing/senior-housing-options.htm

“ To Save on Rent, Some Dutch College Students are Living in Nursing Homes,” The Atlantic Business, October 5 2015, Accessed December 24, 2015 http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/10/dutch-nursing-home-college-students/408976/