What happens when the young and old live together, side-by-side?
Australian television program Dateline ventured to the Netherlands in a mini-documentary called “My 93-Year Old Flat Mate” to showcase a unique arrangement:
In the city of Deventer, near Amsterdam, students are offered a place to live for free in the aged care home Humanitas. In return for free rent, students must spend 30 hours a month with the seniors, helping them with chores, taking them out, and socializing with them. Both young and old offer each other the opportunity learn, share experiences in a unique set-up that helps to create dynamic relationships that nurture inter-generational friendships.
In the documentary we see how each generation benefits from interacting from the other. The seniors get a chance to feel young, sharing experiences with their younger roommates and being involved in their lives reinvigorates them with youthful energy. From gossiping and teasing the students after a night out, to playfully flirting with the students this intergenerational relationship helps the seniors feel young once again. Tech-savvy students also help the seniors navigate the internet and new technologies, helping them understand how to use them. These relationships blossom to the point where the seniors see the students as a part of their own family, even their sons or daughters.
The younger generation also takes away life lessons from interacting with older generation. As the students interact with the seniors they learn to take their lives slow at times, to appreciate the moment. Through interacting with the seniors, the students realize that they are people too with their own experiences, likes and hobbies. The students also learn life lessons like the experience of death but at the same time find a rewarding experience in helping the seniors find happiness as their lives come to an end.
Creating environments for multiple generations to come together has benefits for everyone involved. For the older generations they can find happiness, share what they have learned in life and touch youth once again. While for the younger generations find rewarding experiences and learn life lessons from those who have lived it. It is important for everyone that we become a more open society, providing the opportunities and environment for inter-generational interactions. Everyone, young and old and in between would benefit from it.