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Broke graduate who opted to live in an old age nursing home shares how it changed his life

This 24-year-old was initially searching for a cheap room to stay but ended up befriending all the ailing elderly folks in a nursing home.

Broke graduate who opted to live in an old age nursing home shares how it changed his life
Cover Image Source: Instagram | @teuntoebes

Not many youngsters would want to hang out with elderlies suffering from dementia and other critical ailments for prolonged hours. But a 24-year-old man named Teun Toebes had made a conscious decision to spend three years of his life living alongside aged patients with dementia for the sake of finding an affordable place. It was a social experiment at first but soon turned into a memorable experience for him. The experience has changed him as a human being and now, Toebes feels that people need a new approach while looking after elderly folks because institutionalizing them in isolated wards isn't the right thing to do.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Teun Toebes (@teuntoebes)


 

According to Express, Toebes started living in a closed dementia ward of a nursing home in his native country, the Netherlands. He wanted to experience what it was like living in a facility like that permanently. The fellow who has recently finished his Master's degree in care ethics opted to live amongst the elderly instead of in student accommodation. "It’s my one big privilege," Toebes explained, "I have the code of the closed ward. I couldn’t live here for three years without it. In fact, I think no one can. It would leave you so closed off from the world."

Representational Image Source: Pexels
Representational Image Source: Pexels

The young man firmly believes in that we, as a society, need to destigmatize people living in such old-age care homes. He sheds some light on how people expect old individuals suffering from dementia to live in isolated places, completely cut off from the world outside. "I live with the most beautiful people," he continues. "At the same time, they are all people with dementia. However, that is only one characteristic they all share and it is not their defining characteristic. Of course, as a person with a disease, you have specific needs from that disease, but not all your needs as a human being are driven only by it."


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Teun Toebes (@teuntoebes)


 

 

What started as a social experiment for Toebes, evolved into something greater. "We need to see people living in the nursing home as equal human beings," he insists. Toebes is currently living in the Green Lanes Nursing Home, which is a short distance away from a facility in Utrecht where he spent the past two years of his life. The graduate, whose mother happens to be a psychiatric nurse and father is an accountant, has found a best friend in Ad, a 79-year-old dementia patient at the facility. Toebes makes sure to take him out to coffee shops and they chat about life.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Teun Toebes (@teuntoebes)


 

 

"What is the aim of nursing home care?" he muses about the living condition of these vulnerable citizens. "It’s quality of life in the last phase of people’s lives. If people are living for only a month or a year – and the average stay in a nursing home is just eight months – then quality of life should be the most important aspect. Instead, the focus is on risk management, control and safety." He firmly believes that people suffering from dementia need to be treated as proper human beings and not just as patients or clients. "In our Western world, we want to solve life with care," he adds.

Toebes has also penned a book, narrating the experiences he had while voluntarily living in a care home. His book "The Housemate" is all set to get published in the UK, as well, after becoming a bestseller in the Netherlands where prime minister Mark Rutte also applauded Toebes and his work. In the past few years, he has also been putting his efforts to finish a documentary project titled "Human Forever" and it will be the opening film for a G20 summit on October 2023. 


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Teun Toebes (@teuntoebes)


 

 

"The documentary will be aired in October. That will be a good moment to continue my mission in another way. Living in a nursing home shouldn’t be my aim. My aim is to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia," he concluded. Toebes' heartfelt efforts to improve the living condition of ailing seniors will not go unnoticed for sure.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Teun Toebes (@teuntoebes)


 

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