On his way home from class, Jurriën Mentink takes a slight detour to pick up some fresh fillets from the fishmonger. His neighbor has an affinity for fish and, since he cycles by the market anyway, it’s really no trouble.
After paying, he hops back on his bike and heads home. He’ll visit his neighbor, have dinner, maybe do some studying or kick back to watch TV, much like any other university student.
Except home is a nursing home. And his neighbor just turned 93.
Mentink is one of six students living at Residential and Care Center Humanitas, a long-term care facility in the riverside town of Deventer, in the eastern part of the Netherlands. In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, students are able to stay in vacant rooms there free of charge.
Students in the Netherlands spend an average of 366 euros (roughly $410) each month on rent, up from 341 euros in 2012. Student housing is often cramped or dingy, and is increasingly difficult to come by. Amsterdam, for instance, was short almost 9,000 student rooms last year.
Meanwhile, long-term care facilities in the country are facing problems of their own. In 2012, the Dutch government decided to stop funding continuing care for citizens over the age of 80 who weren’t in dire need. A large group of aging adults, who had once benefited from a free, all-inclusive ticket to a home like Humanitas, found themselves unable to shoulder the costs.