Humanitas Retirement Home - Jurrien Mentink's story.
23-year-old urban planning student Jurrien Mentink from Deventer, Netherlands was part of the brilliant student/intergenerational housing project at the Residential and Care Centre Humanitas, a long-term care facility for elderly people. Jurrien is one of six students who are living at Humanitas. In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, students are able to stay in vacant rooms, free of charge. We were lucky to get Jurrien to share some of his personal reflections on age and this short film about how it is to live at Humanitas.
Words and images by Jurrien Mentink.
Is age relevant? I do think age is relevant to the way I think about myself. During my short lifetime I have gained experience, which has made me the way I am, according to my personality and DNA. The longer you live, the more experience you gain, depending on how active and eager you are. This can be a useful tool, when you look at yourself and I think it has a lot to do with appearance. If I flirt with a nice girl, similar to my age (23), it is seen as nice and acceptable (if you are not a dick of course!). If I am fifty, it could be seen as very wrong and even creepy. Doing the same thing as a 90 year old person, could be seen as cute. So, yes, age is relevant.
"When we tell each other stories about our daily lives and experiences, we learn from each other and in effect, combine our efforts in searching for happiness."
I have seen my next door neighbour in action (90 years old), and girls love it. Because they see it as playful behaviour, which does not pose a threat to them. By having different perspectives from different people in your life, your own becomes much wider. In general, it makes me wonder about multiple questions, which I otherwise have failed to ask, which I realise could be extremely important during later stages of my life. It is also a part of me, according to the experiences I have had with all these different kinds of people. So, therefore, it has changed how I look at myself. For instance, I am studying to become a Urban Designer, eventually. My city planning skills should have a structural impact on the lives of thousands of people who will live in the districts, which will have been designed by me.
This is what my school is expecting me to do. Now I know; because of living with different kinds of people, it is impossible, as a 23 year old “boy”, to design anything for a thousand individuals with their own experiences, skills, needs and of course personalities. Besides, if I were to become a true Urban Designer and then, I would have to become a person who only thinks about his designs, and not about his clients or most importantly the people in it. If that is the case, I don’t even want to become a Urban Designer.
What's your biggest stress right now? At the moment my biggest stress is graduating and after that choosing the right career. I don’t think elderly people think about graduating anymore. Instead, I see that lots of elderly people think about "passing away”. So, I do think that this is age specific.
"I do think by living together, my neighbours are happier then they used to be and therefore, we both benefit from a mutual happiness."
What makes you happy right now? I think the biggest thing which is making me happy right now is my new girlfriend! And also living and working together with the elderly people at Humanitas.
I do think by living together, my neighbours are happier then they used to be and therefore, we both benefit from a mutual happiness. There are still different priorities between individuals according to their age, social status, relationships and independence (which is affected by health and care) and that definitely affects overall happiness. Still, everyone is in search of happiness. Age does not matter during this search. What happiness means to an individual can only be described by him or herself, depending on their age, experience, social status, relationships, education, health and probably lots of other factors. Sometimes you have to look for it yourself, and sometimes you can do it together. That's the beauty of being human!
Of course combining those different perspectives is important when living with older people. Superficial thoughts of one another creates a space for mutual respect. When we tell each other stories about our daily lives and experiences, we learn from each other and in effect, combine our efforts in searching for happiness. Younger residents lend a helping hand when needed, fixing tellies or iPads. We can bring them in touch with their families by teaching them how to use Facebook. They tell us their war stories, “never again” is always the message. We organise parties and drink together and are always telling each other jokes.
I feel like everything is possible... (I could write a book about this). In Dutch society, we tend to take care of all the people who are not able to work but in so doing, they get demoted and dispatched to the far corners of our society. Somehow, we only think about our elderly in terms of what they cannot do and as a result, “respectfully” put them into healthcare centers. Sure, it seems nice that we are able to take care of all these aging individuals but how must it feel to be fully cared for while not being regarded as a functioning part of society because of your age or health? I think we should change this and not look at people in terms of what they cannot do, rather, we should look for what they can do!
I know we can make them feel appreciated again, for being the person they want to be or even become. Age is not relevant. It is the individual itself that matters. If every individual feels appreciated in our society, we all benefit.
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