The Very Old and the Somewhat Young


Okay, readers: Please help me figure this out. Why is this idea — college students living for free in an old peoples’ home — so appealing?  Is there anything Free-Range about it, other than celebrating the idea of people connecting?

Or maybe it’s just a new and good solution to a couple of problems at once, and it’s always fun to encounter one of those?

Or maybe it’s how I have always wanted to live, which is basically in a dorm?

Or maybe it’s remembering that old and young didn’t used to be completely separate?  Not quite sure, but I did love this story from the Netherlands. Hope you do too. – L



dateline 2

This stinedbdtn
is just a photo for illustration purposes! The video is above it!

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27 Responses to The Very Old and the Somewhat Young

  1. SKL August 9, 2016 at 11:16 am #

    Maybe that it’s a way for the younger generation to receive and preserve (and appreciate) the wisdom and experience of the older generation? And to give the older folks some cognitive stimulation (talking to young people).

  2. TeacherJR August 9, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    I think it’s a great idea. Homogeneous communities of any sort tend to become echo chambers that reinforce the attitudes and behaviors of the given group.

    I believe I read this in the book “Free to Learn” by Peter Gray: In age-segregated conditions, little kids behave like little kids, and older kids behave like older kids. But in age-mixed conditions, the younger children step up to better behavior because they want to be like the “big kids,” and the older children will take on more leadership and mentoring of the younger kids. Everybody wins.

    I imagine that the mixed-age groupings mentioned in the story are helping the older folks stay more open-minded and active, and are helping the younger folks develop more maturity and consideration for others.

  3. WendyW August 9, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    I think part of the appeal is the recognition that it takes a pretty special young person to want to take on the responsibility of helping to care for an unrelated elder. We’d love to see that kind of empathy in all of our youngers, but the young of any generation tend to be pretty self-centered.

    My son recently talked about moving in with his grandfather in order to attend school in that city. It’s an idea that certainly ticked off a lot of boxes for both generations. Unfortunately, the time has come to consider other options for my father-in-law’s care instead.

  4. Beth2 August 9, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    We live in a very fragmented, age-segregated society that prioritizes autonomy and independence. it’s unique in human history. For most of our existence people have lived inter-generationally, and helped one another, even strangers, because it was necessary to survive. Imagine if Odysseus showed up at your door, asking for water, and you said, “It’s not my problem. I didn’t *choose* for you to wander for 10 years. Beat it!”

    Now old folks are shuttled off to nursing homes, and children are shunned and given the stink-eye in restaurants and airplanes. Many college kids are awkward and weird around old people, and many adults are awkward and weird around young kids, for the simple reason that they have almost no exposure to them. And that is incredibly odd, historically speaking.

    As to why this article might resonate specifically with parents and more specifically with readers of this blog…for me, personally, it’s because I feel very abandoned by society in my parenting due to the fragmenting and age-segregation I describe above. We parents are judged constantly by the childless for the smallest mistake, and we’re never allowed to complain about how very very hard it all is, because we hear “YOU CHOSE to have kids!!!” Yes, but we didn’t choose to do it with the expectation that society would be so wholly unsupportive.

    It seems like every nuclear family in our town is like a small island adrift, and making connections in the community is a constant uphill battle. Many people today now *pay strangers* to coach us in the delivery room, tend to the baby when we are postpartum, teach us how to breastfeed, deliver us meals when we are convalescing, sleep train our kids, watch our kids while we’re at work, shovel our snow, rake our leaves, and tend to us in our old age. None of that is “normal” from the perspective of human history.

    And also, by the way, our choice to raise the next generation is how the human species survives. It’s not a choice like “learning to play the drums” or “building a cool robot.” And if we screw it up, it’s “our” kids who will graffiti “your” streets, pick your pockets, steal your identities, empty your bank accounts, and not generate enough GDP to prop up your retirement accounts. So…maybe a little support here, please?

    Can we stop acting like we are a bunch of autonomous free agents whose central pursuit in life is our own sense of fulfillment and self-actualization? Can we act a little more like a group of people who have moral responsibility to one another, as humans, even if we didn’t volunteer for that responsibility?

    (Sorry, I’ve been meaning to get that off my chest for a while.)

  5. Papilio August 9, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Ah, I knew immediately what you were talking about! 🙂 Btw here is the long (20 minutes) version, for the curious:

    I agree that this takes a certain type of young person. I was watching it thinking about if I would have liked that 24/7. I would have liked to learn how to knit and crochet and all that though 🙂

    “Or maybe it’s how I have always wanted to live, which is basically in a dorm?”
    Made me LOL – imagining frail old you doing drinking games and flirting with boys a quarter of your age! 😀 (Aaaaand now I feel sad.)
    Guess this (partly) explains the exchange students?

  6. JulieH August 9, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    When I was single, mid-twenties, living alone in California, I hung out with an “old person.” She was living with her son (one of my coworkers) and dil due to health and financial challenges. I started out hanging out at their house, but as I got to know them better, I would pick up the elderly lady on my way home from work on Fridays, and she would stay in my guest room for the weekend. It gave them all a much needed break from each other and gave me much needed company. When I would go out of town, if her health allowed, she would stay at my place for me and care for my kitties. When she joined a church, I provided her transportation and attended with her until she got to know people well enough to get set up with rides. Looking back on it, it probably seemed like a pretty strange thing to my coworkers. (Heck, it seems strange to me looking back.)

    I know that I got a lot out of the experience, and she did too.

  7. HKQ451 August 9, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    I think Beth2 has the connection with free-ranging. The segregation of society means that a lot of space the public moves in (whether publicly or privately owned) is geared up for the ideal of the independent adult with everything else being catered to separately and seen, in many ways as a nuisance. Often when we try to address the disenfranchisement faced by some we do so by trying to engineer space so that it allows those people to navigate it independently rather than looking to people to be a supportive community. But having college kids live with the elderly means having people be mutually supportive instead.

  8. Jess August 9, 2016 at 1:14 pm #

    This is My family has moved a lot since my husband and I first married. My oldest was born in Augusta, Georgia, my second in San Diego, and my third now in Lehi, Utah. We’re in the process of moving again and I find myself dreading the prospect of making new friends and building a new support group. It can be hard to reach out to your close family for help, but when they live over 1000 miles away, asking for support from near-perfect strangers is even harder. It’s not that I wish I was closer to my family (they’re kind of toxic), but I wish that making connections and finding support was easier than it is.

  9. that mum August 9, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    I totally support this idea– I lived with my Gran when I went to college, so did both my older sisters and my brother. It was a great set up– cheaper for sure and an awesome way to connect with Gran. Also that freshman 15 they talk about– that was her old school cooking with real butter and cream…. 🙂

  10. J.T. Wenting August 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    This is NOT to provide cheap living accommodations for young people, contrary what the official blurb tells you.
    It’s solely meant to reduce the cost of caring for the elderly by shoving the duty on unpaid “volunteers”, who get board and room (at market rates for the location) in return.

    It’s nice for the old people, having someone to go for walks with them who’s not a nurse (most of those have been fired in budget cuts in recent years), or more often to help them to the toilet.

    My father lives in a nursing home in the Netherlands, there is 1 nurse per 20 ‘clients’, and that’s the maximum care unit for people needing 24/7 nursing care, those bedridden and restricted to wheelchairs who’re incontinent and often severely demented.
    Elderly people who can still walk and clean themselves only really see the staff when it’s time for food to be served or their beds to be cleaned once a week or so.
    The staff were initially surprised me and my sister visit dad at least once a week. Most of the inmates (my dad’s term, and appropriate) get visitors once a month or less. For them having a live-in student who takes them out for a walk once a week or so would be a god’s end.

    It’s a disgrace the way we treat our elderly people, both as offspring quite often and as nations.

  11. Marybeth August 9, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    I think it’s a great idea!! A good friend of my husband’s family lived with my husband’s grandmother during her university years in the same town where the grandmother lived. It was not just about needing a place to live. It gave both grandmother and the student an important relationship.

  12. pentamom August 9, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    JT, can you point me to a source that indicates this? My understanding is that the young people are not caregivers; their contribution consists of socializing, not physical care in any way.

    And, yeah, getting social interaction for people in retirement homes is generally difficult and no, there is not much funding available above and beyond what it takes to care for them in the first place (because there is only so much money in the world.) I can’t see how the quite valuable compensation of free rent in a good housing situation in return for a few hours a week of socializing is exploitative rather than an excellent compensation model. Do you have information to indicate why it crosses that line?

  13. Papilio August 9, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    Thank you, Pentamom, for showing some common sense and knowledge of the world.

  14. jan smith August 9, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

    Splendid idea, they’re doing it in Holland

  15. Nicole R. August 9, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    Love it!!

    I actually used to visit an older lady in college – a friend’s grandmother who happened to live near my school. She was wonderful to talk to, and I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did.

  16. Dean Whinery August 9, 2016 at 9:33 pm #

    Appears to be a worthwhile thing, but doesn’t fit into Free Range Kids issues.

  17. Heidi Aronson August 9, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    There was a feature-length film about a college student who took a semester off and moved into an assisted living facility. It was absolutely terrific. I’ve asked the person who showed it (in a class) to send me the name of it and I will let you know!

  18. J.T. Wenting August 10, 2016 at 12:38 am #

    pentamom, it may not be part of the official duties, but if you’re there and the next qualified staff member is half an hour away (which is ever more often the case) what do you do?

    Not saying they’re deliberately pushed into becoming untrained nurses, but that’s what happens.

    Visiting my dad, as a visitor to the facility, I sometimes have to take on things like feeding people and cleaning up when they spill food over themselves at lunchtime. Can’t sit idly by and see things go wrong. Now imagine if you live among those people…
    And I’m physically limited and can’t do more, not going to lift someone out of a wheelchair with chronic back problems…

  19. sexhysteria August 10, 2016 at 2:16 am #

    A great improvement over traditional nursing homes for the aged, and educational for young people too.

  20. Heidi Aronson August 10, 2016 at 2:46 am #

    As promised, this is the movie:

  21. Denise August 10, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    How inspiring. Thank you so much for posting this.

  22. Joan August 10, 2016 at 8:49 am #

    “Can we stop acting like we are a bunch of autonomous free agents whose central pursuit in life is our own sense of fulfillment and self-actualization? Can we act a little more like a group of people who have moral responsibility to one another, as humans, even if we didn’t volunteer for that responsibility?”

    Beth2, I know you’re talking about parenting here, but I think this should be our new national motto. Especially in our current fraught political cycle.

  23. K2 August 10, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    I bet money is a big part of it. Older people don’t necessarily have $10/hr or more to give to in-home care 24/7 and many younger people can barely afford college, much less housing and other related expenses. If the college student is helpful to the older person it is a good arrangement. Sadly many Americans are not naturally helpful. They instead have the attitude that if they have to do something someone else isn’t keeping up.

  24. JulieH August 10, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    Contrary to some, I do think that this is free-range related. A kid who is given the chance to get out and deal with problems on their own are more likely to learn to navigate interacting with people of a wide range of ages in a variety of situations. Those interactions lead to caring about others and the world around them as well as self-confidence to go at something like this with a can-do attitude. Free-range just gives a different perspective on the world.

    For example, I have an 11 yo daughter. Riding her bike…led to riding her bike alone around town…led to riding her bike to the downtown lunch/ice cream shop with money in her pocket to buy herself lunch…led to her getting to know the owner and staff on a first name basis…so when there was a flood downtown, the next day then 10yo hopped on her bike, rode downtown, and asked if she could help them clean up their store because they mattered to her on a personal level…so then when the owner needed help with kid’s crafts for a community block party, she asked the 11yo if she could help…which has led to the 11yo planning activities, helping set up the block party before the event, running activities at the event, and riding her bike downtown to “meet” with the organizer to review her activity plans. The only involvement I have had is the owner confirming with me that I was ok with dd helping, reviewing dd’s plans when she asked, and working at HER activity station as a helper because she asked.

    Free-range can most definitely lead to the spirit of giving of one’s self. Don’t we all want to raise kids that have the self confidence and ability to look outside themselves to those around them so that this kind of an arrangement has definite appeal.

  25. EricS August 10, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    It’s not “Free Range”, but it is a great way for the young to re-learn and appreciate the respect and admiration of the elderly that they were taught when they were children. Many of us forget a lot of the things we were taught as kids, or even how we viewed the world. Children see the world and people unfiltered. As we get older, we experience many things that change us. Including negative things that make us jaded. So the unfiltered views we had as children, are now adjusted by ourselves to suite our feelings on the matter. We do things to make ourselves feel better, even if it’s against what we were taught as children. In essence, we become selfish to our own wants, to satiate the insecurities we learned to harbor.

    I know for me, whenever I talk to my uncles and aunts, and grand relatives, I sometimes feel humbled by their experiences, knowledge and wisdom. I’ve been around a long time. They’ve been around a lot longer. And just like children can re-teach us things we’ve forgotten, the elder can teach us where we are heading. This is a good thing for the younger generation. Especially those that were helicoptered as children. But just as important, it’s great for the elderly. I think it rejuvenates them. They always seem to be more than happy to chat about the good ol days.

  26. Melanie August 11, 2016 at 12:10 am #

    I can tell you why. When I was 15, I started regularly volunteering in an assisted living. I was placed there by a School-To-Work transiton worker. This was to give me volunteer work experience in preparation for future employment. I receive this service due to being on the autism spectrum. I absolutely adored playing with these people. I came in once a week during the school year and twice a week during the summer. I ran trivia and word games. I also helped with parties, assisted with activities that weren’t my usual, and simply talked to the residents. I got so much out of it: it was fun and I learned valuable skills at the same time. The residents benefited too: my games helped them keep their minds sharp and I was able to provide friendship and companionship to people who needed it so desperately. Plus, they LOVE seeing young people: a 15 year old coming in regularly was a real treat and novelty.

    My counselor saw that I was doing so much good, she nominated me for a community service award. I got it. At the ceremony, her speech was about my dedication and what she sees when she comes in. Mine was about being able to do anything with a disability and doing good being more important than getting paid. Then the New York State Rehabilitation Association did a video on me for a video series about youth career, where they taped me leading trivia and talking about the good I do and what I get out of it.

    I now work as a professional advocate part-time while going to college, and I do because I realized then, through comforting these lonely, elderly people, that I was meant to help people. When the New York State Rehabilitation Association encounters me during my job, they say how far I’ve come and that they watched me grow from a girl to a woman. My counselor did too, now working with me on my professional employment.I am tearing up as I am writing this. Thought you might want a young person’s perspective.

  27. Crystal August 11, 2016 at 9:25 am #

    Such a great idea.