In our continued search for humans unbound by age, we find ourselves visiting Tiny who resides in a Dutch retirement home in the South East of Amsterdam. She introduces us to her friend and partner in crime, Henriëtte van Dongen, the founder of ‘Het huisje van Toen’. This can best be described as a room filled with antique furniture and paraphernalia, intending to positively stimulate the memory of people with dementia. What started as a extra storage room is transformed into a space where older people can feel at ease, with the help of Henriëtte, Tiny and other volunteers and sponsors.
My former conception of retirement homes was contaminated by daunting images of hospital beds and sick or even dying people. However, as I make my way through the hallway trying to keep up with a woman well over three times my age, all I can think about is how much it feels like we are running through the halls while skipping class in school. The only thing to contradict this feeling is a friendly reminder that is stuck to every elevator door:
When asked about these stickers, Tiny says ‘Nobody actually pays attention to these kind of rules around here!’ She goes on to tell us that in this facility, the elevators are places of communication and the place to be when it comes to finding out about what goes on in the retirement home.
After sharing anecdotes and drinking from vintage coffee cups in ‘Het Huisje van Toen’, we visit Tiny’s home, and another one of the initiatives that Tiny volunteers time for. A small shop located near the common room and restaurant area sells items of departed residents. Articles of clothing, jewelry, books, movies, furniture and many other valuable items that would otherwise end up in the trash are resold for a small price. The money raised from these items goes directly towards residents in the form of events, gatherings and a small gift to celebrate the New Year.
On our way out the door one the members of our team asks: ‘Doesn’t she make you look forward to aging?’