Life long (short) Friendships

Documentary: My 93-year-old Flatmate

Humanitas age care facility in the Netherlands has achieved an intergenerational connection between students and the elderly by giving students a rent free home in return for 30 hours of service. However the exchange aims to bring joy to the elderly and for the students “to be a good neighbour” (Lewis, 2016). In contract, the students are given complete freedom in choosing how they would like to serve their elderly neighbours but the project has achieved much more, fostering genuine friendships between the two groups.

By using the existing urban space available in the city of Amsterdam, Humanitas has created an innovative solution by provide housing for students and created an opportunity for the aging population to socialise, increasing their happiness. The concept of ‘acting neighbourly’ reflects the integrated nature of the arrangement, putting the desires of the elderly first instead of implementing policies.

“A good neighbour somehow means being part local, part friend, part grandchild, part social worker, part health care provider, and some days teaching an 84 year old woman to play beer pong” (My 93-year-old Flatmate 2016).

The intergenerational link fosters a learning environment for both parties, linking elderly with the hobbies and technologies that the students bring. Technology plays a major role in many of the residents lives such as the specialised tandem bicycle fitted for two.

Two neighbours enjoy a ride through the park together (2016).

Residents proclaim increasing loneliness as they age and CEO Gea Sijpykes believes the intergration of students “alters the whole tone of the conversation here so that it’s not only about death, sickness and old age but also about youth” (My 93-year-old Flatmate 2016).

This precedent deals with the challenges of mental health faced and facilitated friendships and learning experiences, increasing inclusion and integration within their homes and society. Furthermore it has nurtured a sense of value for life after youth and economic output. As Lee & Moore states the quality of our lives will be determined by the values formed by our children today (2015). The arrangement generates empathy between generations of people who have the ability to change the perception of the old and how we treat age care.

However, the producer of the film Aaron Lewis does state the spark difference of “warmth” between the standard wards and dementia wards at Humanitas (2016).

“We didn’t get to talk for very long, Luxios [a demntia resident] has lost the ability to talk much about the here and now” (My 93-year-old Flatmate 2016).

Luxios alone in his room which is separated from the other residents (2016).

HLee & Moore’s research emphasises the importance of inclusivity to create opportunities and solutions for everyone as equals (2015). Humanitas’ humanistic approach towards the non-dementia residents could be implemented to create social inclusion and increase the wellbeing of people like Luxios.



Humanitas, 2016, Student Jordi Pronk and 86-year-old Joke Kerdijk spend time together singing, playing music and simply talking, SBS, viewed 4 November 2016, < >.

Lee, Y. Moore, P. 2015, Desis Network Aging & Ingenuity Thematic Cluster, 1st edn, DESIS Network, Hong Kong.

Lewis, A. Palmer, M. Lim, B. 2016, ‘My 93-year-old Flatmate, SBS, Australia, viewed 4 November 2016, < >.

My 93-year-old Flatmate 2016, motion picture, SBS, Deventer Netherlands.

Posted in B: Aging Best Practices

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