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going-dutchToward the end of March a little news story came to our attention that we thought was totally innovative and pretty cool. It is one of the best bits of lateral thinking that’s offered real value to an entire society I’ve ever come across.

It was a story from the Netherlands, and it was about a retirement home that has developed an ingenious share house solution to help both the young and the elderly.

Six Dutch students live rent-free in the Humanitas Deventer retirement home about an hour east of Amsterdam.

In return for this rent free accommodation, they ‘work’ 30 or so hours a month around the retirement home, arranging dinner at times but generally just spending time with elderly residents and ‘being a good neighbour’. The students love it, the oldies love it and what we love about it so much is that it hits all four of our values; do the right thing, show you care, try your best and create smiles.

I was particularly struck by a comment in the article about a benefit of the program to the elderly residents – “the young ones bring the outside world inside their lives.” It made a lot of sense to me because it’s what my team strives to do every day, they “have conversations that are more like everyday life” as they are doing treatments and through those conversations, they build close bonds with the residents that often result in surprising and wonderful outcomes.

Two short weeks later, I noticed this local story about an Illawarra nursing home considering rent-free accommodation for uni students. Inspired by the Dutch example, the facility director of Hillside at Figtree aged care, Maurice Tulich said “We’re building a new facility at Hillside called Greenhills, and we’ll be endeavouring to establish a facility where we can look at people staying overnight or living there on a part-time basis from the outside community, and that would be involving universities in particular.”

It’s an idea that aims to address affordable student accommodation and the negative social effects of ageing in one concise scheme. It was so great to see this story, clearly others had been as impressed by the ‘Dutch story’ as we were.

As our society ages and pressure continues to grow on the scarce resources and infrastructure to support our ageing population, this kind of creativity and innovation must happen. Events like the conference I attended last year for Creative ideas in ageing are great as they bring together a bunch of people with similar philosophies who are looking to bring joy and optimism to people living in aged care facilities.

What’s interesting about this generational clash is that both the young and elderly enjoy great benefits from an idea that in theory seems to be a mismatch. I can’t wait to see all of this come to life.