Alzheimer’s disease is not strictly a condition that is prevalent in the U.S., it’s now being considered a worldwide epidemic by many medical experts. But, in some countries, people are coming up with innovative ideas about how society and communities can cope with the situation.
In the U.S., senior living facilities are designed just for older adults, many of which have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. But, in the Netherlands, there is a new approach the ever-increasing number of seniors needing housing; college students are living with seniors.
The cohabitation idea is ingenious because it has solved the problem of the shortage of housing (and money) for college students, while creating an innovative program to address the social needs of seniors who live alone.
At a nursing home in The Netherlands, college students exchange 30 hours each month of their time—which is dedicated to helping seniors—for free rent. During the 30 hours, college students commit to socializing, watching sports, celebrating birthdays, reading to seniors and more.
The result is a win/win for both the seniors, who are happy to have company, and the students who can save money while going to college.
The Housing Program
The senior/student housing program in the Netherlands involves 6 students living among 150 senior citizens at a senior housing facility. But the idea has become more widespread than just a single facility. In fact, several other senior housing communities, have launched similar programs—one such program is in the United States.
In the U.S. music students are cohabiting with senior residents in exchange for performing recitals on a regular basis—to help cheer up the older adults. There’s also been a pre-school that incorporated its students into nursing homes, to allow seniors who live alone an opportunity to care for the little ones and experience their Grandparenting days again.
Notoriously, senior facilities were designed only for older people, to keep things quiet and on the down low for the so called frail elderly population. But what many experts are finding out is that the noise and activity of younger people surrounding seniors, helps to liven things up and put a little more pep in their step.
Intergenerational Programs and Alzheimer’s Disease
But, what about residents with Alzheimer’s disease? Although symptoms of Alzheime’s can include anxiety and aversion to noisy situations, other activities, such as listening to music and conversing with others, helps to improve mood in many AD patients, and may even relieve some of their symptoms—helping them to practice speech and memory skills.
Other people with mild Alzheimer’s symptoms may want to remain independent as long as possible, but simply need someone to check on them from time to time. Having a young college student roommate is the perfect solution in this scenario, because the student can provide the emotional support and social connect that is vital for brain health—particularly in aging adults.
These innovative intergenerational programs are helping to change the way that society views aging. If older people can be of use in helping to house college students, or reading to pre-school kids, perhaps they are not the throw away generation that much of society has deemed them to be after all.