Humanitas student resident Jurriën Mentink with one of his neighbors. Photo: AFP / Nicolas Delaunay. ​

When the Dutch government stopped funding continuing care costs for senior citizens who weren’t in dire need, nonprofit residential care facility Humanitas in Deventer, Netherlands found itself with numerous vacant rooms. At the same time, Dutch students faced higher rent and scarce housing.

Humanitas director and CEO Gea Sijpkes created a solution to solve both problems: offer students a room in the facility in exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work each month.

“If they could get a room in Humanitas,” Sijpkes told CityLab, “they wouldn’t have to borrow so much money for their study. At the same time, I have some young people in the house, which makes Humanitas the warmest and nicest home in which everybody who needs care would want to live.”

This intergenerational living arrangement goes far beyond filling rooms and providing affordable housing. Students teach the their neighbors how to use computers for email, social media, and Skype. They also do art projects together, watch movies, and the young people keep the seniors connected to the outside world with updates about their lives.

The Humanitas model has proven successful and others are adopting it. CityLab reports,

"The intergenerational living model is beginning to gain in popularity. Since Humanitas opened its doors to students in 2012, two more nursing homes in the Netherlands have followed suit. And a similar program was recently introduced in Lyon, France.

"In the United States, the Judson Manor retirement community in Cleveland started accepting students from the Cleveland Institutes of Art and Music several years ago. As at Humanitas, the students are integrated among the resident population and have access to all the same amenities."

As the sharing economy is about utilizing not just idle goods, such as cars and boogie boards, but idle assets such as time, knowledge and companionship, we give this model two thumbs up. It’s a fantastic approach to solving social issues of isolation as well as an innovative way to address the housing crisis that so many cities face.


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Cat Johnson


Cat Johnson | |

Cat Johnson is a content strategist and teacher helping community builders create strong brands. A longtime writer, marketing pro and coworking leader, Cat is the founder of Coworking Convos and