Students

Fight the loneliness

Adopt a grandma

Every week Welmoed Wester has a cup of coffee with her adoptive grandma. She gets to hear stories from a time where even a typewriter was exceptional.  In return, her 93 year old protege has someone to talk to. ‘ Nothing ever happens in my life.’
Text and photo’s foto’s Freek Schueler/ translation sarah van steenderen

Get you own grandma

Like this initiative? In Groningen several projects allow students to help an elderly person.

Through the Groningen Red Cross’ student desk, you can sign up for ‘Adopt a Grandma/Grandpa’.

You can do laundry and play cards with the elderly every Wednesday afternoon at Oma’s Wassalon at the Floreshuis. You can play jass with senior while your clothes are being cleaned. Information at info@saame.nl.

You’re more of cooking person? Anouk Delissen (21) en Marijn Tiedemann (22) organise ‘Grandma’s Soup’. You can cook together with elderly people using vegetables that would have gotten thrown away on the markt. Mail to omasoepgroningen@outlook.com

Prefer sending a card? Omapost connects elderly people who like to get cards to people who enjoy sending them.

At 9:33 a.m., 22-year-old Welmoed Wester enters the ZINN’s grand new assisted living facility in Selwerd. She was set to meet her ‘adoptive grandma’ at nine thirty. The fact that she’s three minutes late has not gone unnoticed. Welmoed: ‘She’s already phoned me three times to make sure I didn’t forget.’

Once a week, the pair has a cup of coffee together. Sometimes they go grocery shopping. It’s only an hour, but it’s an hour that 93-year-old Mrs Benthem-Dwars always looks forward to. She feels lonely sometimes, especially because she doesn’t like her new home. ‘The old building across the street was much more pleasant. I also had a great view of the pond, where there was always something happening’, she sighs.

Alone in her room

Her husband died approximately ten years ago. Her children visit her every now and then, but she spends most of her time alone in her room. With age came various ailments, such as pain in her arm, trouble walking, and hardness of hearing, which means she has become increasingly less independent.

Fortunately, she has not lost her sense of curiosity, nor does she have trouble talking to people. She can’t help but wonder out loud why she is interesting enough to write an article about. ‘Nothing ever happens to me, why don’t you write about her?’ she says, pointing at Welmoed. She would rather not talk about her current situation. She avoids questions, and it takes forever before she consents to having her picture taken. She laughs: ‘No, I’m old and ugly. When I was young and happy I could still pass muster.’

When I was young and happy I could still pass muster

She would much rather talk about the old days. About how she used to take long walks with her grandpa, back when she lived in Harderwijk. About all the times she moved house. About her husband, who was a horse trader. About her work as an office worker for the national health service: ‘We didn’t even have typewriters.’ About Amersfoort, Leeuwarden, Groningen, and Dalfsen. About how much she used to love reading and writing. About how she should have tried to develop that, but that she never finished school because of the war.

Online world

Welmoed listens attentively. ‘But why don’t you tell me something about yourself’, says Mrs Benthem-Dwars. Last weekend, Welmoed ran the Batavia race. ‘We ran a relay race from Nijmegen to Enschede.’ Mrs Benthem-Dwars is visibly surprised. ‘But how do all those students know that there’s a race?’ she asks. She has no idea about the online world.

Welmoed listens attentively. ‘But why don’t you tell me something about yourself’, says Mrs Benthem-Dwars. Last weekend, Welmoed ran the Batavia race. ‘We ran a relay race from Nijmegen to Enschede.’ Mrs Benthem-Dwars is visibly surprised. ‘But how do all those students know that there’s a race?’ she asks. She has no idea about the online world.

I didn’t know there was a school

Welmoed learned about the ‘adopt a grandma’ project through the student desk at the Red Cross. ‘I knew someone who participated in the project last year, and someone on the board of the Red Cross’ student desk.’ She has only been visiting Benthem-Dwars for a few weeks. ‘It’s been really nice so far.’ She combines it with, among other things, a pre-master in clinical neuropsychology.

Mrs Benthem-Dwars interrupts: ‘Is that at Zernike?’Welmoed: ‘No, at the UMCG.’ Mrs Benthem-Dwars is silent for a while. ‘I didn’t know they had a school there’, she finally responds. ‘But tell me what you did this weekend. The weather was so nice.’

War

The war – ‘That one broke us.’ – is a repeat subject in Mrs Benthem-Dwars’ stories. Our meeting takes place a week before Remembrance Day. She effortlessly reproduces the date Leeuwarden, the city she lived in during the war, was liberated: 15 April, 1945.

The day itself is more difficult to recall. Something with Canadians in a parade? ‘Although we were really happy about the bread that was being dropped from the sky.’

Mrs Benthem-Dwars tells one story after another. Welmoed, who listens attentively, makes for a captivated audience. Welmoed: ‘I like being able to help. I like that she’s happy that I’m here. I get satisfaction from that.’ And for Mrs Benthem-Dwars it makes for a welcome change, even though it’s just one of the 168 hours in her week.

When the hour is over, she walks Welmoed to the door.

Mrs Benthem-Dwars would really like a copy of the Ukrant containing the article about her: ‘Could you bring me one?’

 

Nederlands

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