Students going the extra mile

Students and seniors get crafty together

Wednesday afternoon: in the Croonenhoff nursing home in Heer, residents and visitors of the elderly day-care centre give their creativity free rein. This is the second ‘creativity afternoon’ organised by members of Luna-tik, the psychology student association, under the umbrella of Match Maastricht, an initiative seeking to bring together students and local residents.

At a large table in the Croonenhoff restaurant, participants are busily painting miniature vases with tiny brushes and great patience. At least, they are supposed to be: mainly they are talking. Mr Munnecom is leaving the work to his neighbour Jenna – “painting’s not my thing,” he says. He attends day care five days per week, and has pulled up a chair to have a chat. Jenna, a Canadian student, happily signed up for the creativity session. “I’d like to meet people from Maastricht during my time here,” she explains. “I don’t speak much Dutch, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. The people here really do their best to speak English.” Mr Munnecom speaks reasonable English. “As you can see, I’m in a wheelchair. I wanted something to do after I was declared unfit to work, so I went back to school. That’s where I learned English.” The 87 year old is pleased with the Luna-tik initiative. “I don’t have any other contact with young people. By chatting with them I get to hear about something different for a change.”

Student members of Luna-tik at nursing home Croonenhoff

The same holds for the students, says Luna-tik treasurer Kristel Zaal. “The older people we talk to here have so much life experience; it’s great to hear about it.” The students are aware that among many Maastricht locals, theirs is not the best reputation. “That’s why it’s great to be able to show a different side of ourselves. All the better that they respond so positively.”

Mrs Essers-Snackers doesn’t feel like painting. She taught needlework in Den Bosch for years and moved to Croonenhoff just a few weeks ago. “I could sit here and whine, but that’s no use to anyone.” The French-speaking student next to her has learned that Mrs Essers speaks French. “Un petit peu,” she replies. The conversation that follows is in a mishmash of French and Dutch, with both understanding one another just fine. “My brother was married to a Frenchwoman,” Mrs Essers explains. The sister-in-law passed away 45 years ago, but the knowledge of French has remained.

Following a call in the Luna-tik newsletter, nine students signed up in quick succession for this second creativity afternoon at Croonenhoff. Encouraged by their enthusiasm, the association is hoping to organise an activity with older people once every two months. “We enjoy the contact and the gezelligheid just as much as they do,” Kristel says.

Meyke Houben (text)

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