In Kiel’s Kurt-Engert senior home, six of the 95 flats are occupied not by residents needing a little extra care in their later years, but by students. Attracted by the cheap rent – around €200 per month – the set-up seems to have become a mutually beneficial success story.
“Youngsters watch out for the oldies here, and vice versa,” said home manager Hermann-Josef Stevens. For the students that choose to live there, there are no special requirements or chores – they must simply be mindful of their neighbours.
And for 22-year-old Jan Hermelink, who knew first hand how hard it was to find a student flat, living with elderly neighbours has brought surprising advantages.
“I’ve partied here with friends a few times, and it’s never been a problem. That could be because they didn’t actually hear us – televisions here are always turned up rather loud.”
Indeed history student Hermelink has built up a solid relationship with his 83-year-old neighbour, who seems to really enjoy his company. “It’s good when a bit of youth comes in,” said Gerda Buck who added that she likes listening to Hermelink’s stories.
The pair have been living on the same corridor since 2011 when the programme began, in an attempt to help plug the shortage of 70,000 student homes across Germany. “But for me this isn’t a stopgap, I think it’s great,” said Hermelink.
Elsewhere in the house, 19-year-old psychology student Judith Wulff has been living in her 25-square-metre room since December. She joked that often neighbours would come knocking on her door asking for help opening a stubborn jar.
As the new academic year approaches, students joining the some 24,0000 already in Kiel will likely be looking to the success stories of Wulff and Hermelink for a more creative approach to living.