Old people dying for a bit of company?

Dominating the news as of late across Holland is Euthanasia. The Dutch Government want to amend the current euthanasia law so that elderly people who think they have completed their lives, may end that life. A nice sentiment but one that comes with more than just a loaded gun. The sad news of parliamentarian Frans Jozef van der Heijden and his wife Connie’s joint suicide is more than a statement of will and whether you are for or against euthanasia it is an option taken up mostly by old people. With loneliness sighted as one of the leading reasons for self-chosen end of life the Dutch have looked at ways to tackle the problem.

If you were stuck for another way in which the Dutch have the right idea then allow me to add to your list. How many times have you visited your Gran or Grandad in the last month? Taken a coffee with Oma or talked politics with Opa this week? Well fear not, for they may have replaced you with a student.

You read that right. Grab Granny or Adopt and Opa is a thing now and the Dutch are leading the way with Nursing/Residential homes that house students as well as oldies. Now we aren’t talking the rowdy sex-crazed students who party all day and take care of business all night- we are talking well behaved, arguably lonely youngsters who get FREE board and lodgings with their seniors for just 30hrs a month interaction. So its win-win and who better for research than a veteran who was actually there for your History degree? Or a ex-Au Pair who has seen more of the world and brought up a football team of children?

The stories they have will be fascinating, the knowledge the can share is limitless and the kindness and love you will learn will be extraordinary.

Is loneliness really an issue in the Netherlands?

Social isolation is a thing – and it doesn’t just affect one group of people. Elderly folk are more at risk of this feeling due to a more limited mobility but students and young people suffer from it too. The feeling of not fitting in or the struggle to make friends isn’t restricted by age. With research suggesting that most euthanasia cases in the Netherlands are linked to loneliness one can’t help but wish for a better solution to tackle a problem that many don’t even realise. With the 75-and overs feeling most lonely the idea of integrated living makes perfect sense.

What can young people actually offer that’s of any use?*

(*Controversial headings – we like that!)

So we can list the benefits of age and wisdom from the older generation to the younger but this has to be a mutually reciprocal venture for it to work right?!

Young people are first and foremost company for residents. A companion in which to talk to. Talking about anything or nothing but the art in in the interaction. Young people have the strength and stamina to help with little things like getting the door, carrying a pot of tea across the room, reaching the remote control with ease. Young people also have the knowledge of the internet and can help teach Oma how to use facetime to their granddaughter on the other side of the world. The list really could go on.

The argument for families taking responsibilities of their own elders is still there and one that I often tend to agree with but I simply love this idea. So if you are looking for another reason to grade the social ethics of the Netherlands with an A+ look at this one, free rent for students, a life chance for older people.

Maria Smith
Born and raised in England Maria is a Dutch obsessive. Not just in love with the windmills and tulips her passion for all things Orange has spanned over 10 years. Proud feminist and campaigner, Maria works in UK politics whilst dreaming about eventually moving to the Netherlands.

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