Here's the problem: Students are increasingly finding that accommodations near college campuses are substandard or unaffordable. Meanwhile, older people in care often experience social isolation, which studies demonstrate adversely impacts both their mental and physical health.

Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons

Here's how one organization is working on the problem: Humanitas Retirement Village, a long-term care facility in the city Deventer in the Netherlands, offers free accommodation to students in exchange for 30 hours of their time per month to help the older residents. Currently, six students are residents in the village. This arrangement provides a mutual benefit: rent-free accommodation for students and a younger demographic to help support the care of, and foster interactions with, older residents.

As part of their volunteer agreement, students teach residents various skills — such as using email and social media — and provide companionship. While these exchanges are important, it is living in such proximity that helps relationships and connections develop, eases loneliness, and makes a positive contribution to the mental health of the seniors.


  • Two more senior care homes in the Netherlands have adopted the Humanitas model.
  • There are similar intergenerational-living programs in other cities like Lyon, France, and Cleveland, Ohio, in the U.S.

Learn more from:

PBS NewsHour


This case study is adapted from our latest book, "Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons." Get a copy today.

Header image of residents in intergenerational Dutch retirement home, by Lisa Goldapple/Atlas of the Future
Sharon Ede


Sharon Ede |

Sharon is an urbanist and activist who works to build the sharing/collaborative movement in Australia and beyond. In 2017, she established AUDAcities, a catalyst for relocalising production of food, energy and fabrication in