Paul van de Vijver demonstreert de handschoentjes die Parkinson simuleren

American nursing students visit Leyden Academy

Today, we welcomed 22 juniors and seniors in the nursing program of Lewis University in Chicago. The group is touring the Netherlands this week to explore the Dutch healthcare system and compare it to what they are familiar with in the United States. Their schedule includes visits to Bronovo Hospital and Ipse de Bruggen in The Hague, science and medicine museum Boerhaave in Leiden, and various visits in Amsterdam including meeting an expert in addiction care. One student already noticed a difference with her home country: “The Dutch care seems more compassionate.”

Ageing as a treatable disease
At the Leyden Academy, the students attended two lectures. First, social anthropologist Jolanda Lindenberg raised interesting questions about our images of growing older. Jolanda explained that older people are actually more diverse in their wishes and desires, than younger people. In general, the image of older people is worsening, partly due to (bio)medicalization: the tendency to see ageing as something that needs to be prevented and controlled, as a treatable disease. Jolanda’s advice for the nursing students is to end the emphasis on limitations and decline. “Don’t look at how old someone is, but at who someone is and what someone can still do.”

Experiencing growing old
Medical doctor David van Bodegom then explained that many of the diseases we associate with old age, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are actually related to our lifestyle and can often be delayed or prevented. Our modern environment, that constantly seduces us to eat unhealthy snacks and limit our physical activity, is making us sick. By making smart changes to our daily work and living environments and routines, we can make healthier choices unconsciously. To illustrate how the body and senses can change as we grow older, PhD-student Paul van de Vijver demonstrated the “old age suit”. Truly experiencing the simulation of old age impairments was insightful for the students.