Students and seniors sharing breakfast together

It’s not something you see every day: dozens of senior citizens tucking into their breakfast in the cafeteria of the health campus. Students serve them and then sit down with them for a chat. The Feel Good breakfast is a joint initiative of Maastricht University, the Met je Hart foundation and the catering company Albron.

Berth Ritzen (85) has just started on her croissant. A sprightly woman, she has nothing but praise for the food, which looks “fantastic”, and for the volunteers who picked her up at home. Berth lives alone in a detached house with a large garden. “I’m not interested in moving into a flat in the city”, she says. “I’d rather stay in my familiar surroundings.” Because she has difficulty walking, going out alone is no easy task – but Berth is very active. This is her third activity with Stichting Met je Hart, a charitable foundation that organises activities for lonely older people who live on their own. “Getting involved with them has been very enriching.” Berth has broad interests and enjoys talking with the students. “They’re in a very different phase of life and going through different experiences. Their stories give me new ideas.”

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Meyke Houben (text), Aron Nijs (photography)

Own world

Health Sciences student Kiki Boumans was looking for a new experience. She signed up as a volunteer, and is now busily setting tables and serving food. “I thought it was a good idea to give back in some way, especially in December. As a student, I live, exercise and spend my evenings with other students: you live in your own world, separate from the rest of the city. I had no idea what to expect from this morning, but all the guests are arriving with smiles on their faces, so I’m sure it’s going to be fun.”


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The idea came about when René Kersten, who works for Albron, the catering company that supplies UM, heard about the Met je Hart foundation. “We were keen to organise something for this target group. We hit on the idea of a free breakfast, and Maastricht University offered us the use of this location. When we called on students to help, my inbox filled up immediately. We have 15 students volunteering and another 10 or so bought breakfast for €5. They sit and talk with the visitors and their donation goes entirely to the foundation.”


For the 50 or so elderly participants, the initiative was a success even before this morning got underway, says Marion Tellings from Met je Hart. She was pleasantly surprised by the offer from Albron and the efforts of the students. “Bringing young and old together is a great idea. It would be nice to do something like this more often: an ‘open table’, say, where everybody is welcome.”

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