‘Did you know that one in two people over the age of 65 suffer from loneliness?’ begins Jan Ruyten. Ruyten is the director of the foundation Thuis in Welzijn (Wellbeing at home). ‘When I turned fifty, I finally knew what I wanted to be: a loneliness fighter. That was fifteen years ago and at that time, loneliness barely featured on the agenda. That has since changed. It was not without reason that the King of the Netherlands called corona the “loneliness virus”.’
‘The Thuishuis home is a godsend for me. Eating together, looking after one another to some extent, being supportive, the company. There are people who say to me: why don’t you find yourself a partner? But I don’t want that any more. The freedom of being single is ideal for me, although social interaction is also important. At Thuishuis these things all come together.’Jan Peetoom (77), prospective resident in Winkel
To combat loneliness among the elderly, Ruyten has invented the concept of the Thuishuis home: five to seven people, aged 55 and over, live together in a house of about 400 square metres. Everyone has their own private living space of about 40 square metres, with their own lounge, bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette. They also have a large communal kitchen, living room, recreational room, guest room and a terrace and/or garden. ‘I call it a student house for single elderly people. With all the associated mischief,’ laughs Ruyten.
Dioraphte supports the setup of the Thuishuis in the town of Winkel, in the province of North Holland. This includes kitchen appliances and the furnishings for the living room, complete with a large TV set. Coronavirus has delayed the formation of the residents group in Winkel for a while, but once that is completed, the fifth Thuishuis will become a reality. Ruyten expects eight houses to be up and running in two years’ time, but he believes this is just the beginning.’ The Thuishuis project is a very valuable concept in combatting loneliness. Independent research [by BZK/RIGO, ed.] has shown that it leads to significant financial savings of up to 175 per cent on health and welfare costs. In fact, there should be a Thuishuis in every town.’