New Master Honours Class ‘Innovating Health and Well-being through Entrepreneurship’

New Master Honours Class ‘Innovating Health and Well-being through Entrepreneurship’

In March, the Honours Academy of Leiden University will launch the new Master Honours Class Innovating Health and Well-being through Entrepreneurship (5 EC). Ambitious students with a curious mind will have the opportunity to work on an innovation for the healthcare sector.

In this Master Honours Class, from 19 March until 25 June 2020, students will explore innovations for the healthcare and welfare sector, alongside their regular Master’s degree programmes at Leiden University, “For example, how can people with a low level of literacy learn how to stay healthy’, explains coordinator Lex van Delden of Leyden Academy. Another potential assignment might ask the students to think about the design of a new nursing home, “which puts enjoyment of life rather than care front and centre,” says Van Delden.

The course is all about bringing students closer to the end users of care and welfare, says Van Delden. “In addition to discussing the theory and the students engaging with experts, those who receive care play a vital role in getting to the heart of the problem.” In groups of four, supported by a coach, the students prepare a presentation of their plan. “The main objective is to demonstrate that the plan is also marketable, in other words that it’s feasible and affordable.”

Motivated Master’s students can apply for the new course from today until 16 February. Master Honours Classes are small-scale, extra-curricular, interdisciplinary courses that address both theory and practice. Participants are selected based on motivation, study results and academic background.

For more information on the programme, course load, and registration, please visit the website of the Master Honours Class Innovating Health and Well-being through Entrepreneurship.

START-UP PLUS: not only the youth has the future

START-UP PLUS: not only the youth has the future

John Pemberton was 55-years-old when he launched Coca Cola. Colonel Sanders was 65 when he began fast food chain KFC. Their success stands not on its one: ​​research shows that people over fifty who start their own business, are two to three times more successful than people in their thirties. Yet virtually all start-up programs aim at young entrepreneurs.

About Start-Up Plus
Leyden Academy and Aegon therefore developed Start-Up Plus, a free Dutch program for people over fifty who want to set up their own business. The program started with a the kick-off meeting on October 15, 2019. Followed by eight intensive weeks of online learning and coaching on topics such as customer needs, revenue models, marketing and prototyping. On December 12, 2019, about fifty participants pitched their ideas to an expert jury. The most promising start-up was awarded a cash prize of 10.000 euros and further coaching for the development of their company.

“People over fifty burst with ideas and with their experience and network, they have a greater chance of success.” – Project leader Dr. Jolanda Lindenberg

And the winner is ……
Both the jury and the audience selected the idea of 82-year-old Han van Doorn as the winner. With his “Are You Okay Today” app, the behaviour of the older individual is observed by patterns in their daily power usage. In case of changes in the usual routine, an automatic call is made to the resident, and if there is no response the caregiver is contacted. This gives both the resident and the caregiver some peace of mind. Han speaks from personal experience: “My son wants to keep an eye on his old father. But I do not want an alarm button around my neck or cameras and sensors in my house. This self-learning system reaches out when necessary, without being too intrusive.” Han has developed the app together with his son, has tested it in practice and is already in contact with interested parties such as a health insurer and energy provider. The jury sees his start-up as promising and sees great potential for Han’s innovative app: there are over 4 million informal caregivers in the Netherlands.

Never too old to undertake
Another great initiative is that of 52-year-old Klaartje Gisolf. Her ‘Upcycle Factory’ offers a workplace where waste materials are converted to sustainable products. “My target market is 65- to 99-year-olds, people who are often seen as vulnerable. I want to show them what they are still capable off.”

Start-Up Plus was developed by Leyden Academy and Aegon, and made possible by EIT Health. Many thanks to partners Instituto Pedro Nunes, Medical University of Lodz and University of Naples Federico II.

Royal decoration for Joris Slaets

Royal decoration for Joris Slaets

This afternoon, during a symposium in the Mare church in Leiden celebrating his retirement, director of Leyden Academy Professor Joris Slaets received a royal decoration. He was awarded the grade of Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau by Marleen Damen, deputy mayor of Leiden. This honour is only awarded on the basis of special, personal merits for society.

In his clinical and academic career as a Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Groningen (since 1998) and as executive director of knowledge institute Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing (since 2015), Professor Slaets was always committed to making positive changes in healthcare for the frail elderly. He aimed to shift the focus from disease and symptoms, to the personal wishes and desires of older people. Slaets’ conviction is that radical medical interventions should be kept to a minimum in the final phase of life. With research and field experiments during his years at Leyden Academy, Slaets and his team contributed to integrating enjoying life and compassionate long-term care into current practice where strict sytems, protocols and normative frameworks are still dominant.

As of 1 December 2019, Slaets will retire as director of Leyden Acadamy. His successor is Tineke Abma, professor of Participation & Diversity at Amsterdam UMC.

If you have any questions, please contact Niels Bartels by phone: +31 (0)6 34614817 or by email.

Future non profit managers visit Leyden Academy

Future non profit managers visit Leyden Academy

On 24 October 2019, we welcomed a group of students from the Master programme Management in Non Profit organisations at the University of Applied Sciences in Osnabrück, Germany. The 24 students had very different backgrounds, both in their countries of origin as in the areas of non profit management they are interested in. During their stay in The Netherlands, they visited various non profit organisations ranging from Doctors Without Borders in Amsterdam, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC) in The Hague to Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing.

The master students expressed keen interest in the research of Leyden Academy. Director Marieke van der Waal gave a general introduction of our knowledge institute and areas of expertise, and soon various specific topics were addressed, such as loneliness and the images of older people. Marieke challenged the students to guess what percentage of the Dutch seniors resides in a nursing home. They were surprised to learn that their estimate, “about twenty per cent”, was way off as in fact about 96 per cent of the Dutch older people still live in their own homes independently.

After the break, Jolanda Lindenberg provided the students with a deeper insight into the images of ageing. How we can tackle stereotypes of older people and what are the conditions for successful intergenerational projects? Jolanda mentioned various housing projects and other initiatives that aim to connect the young and old. There are success stories, but it is not easy to facilitate contacts with the depth and quality necessary to make a positive change in how generations view each other.

“The older migrant does not exist”

“The older migrant does not exist”

Leiden, The Netherlands – What are the views of older adults with a migration background on successful ageing in the Netherlands? There are major differences between and within older migrant groups and these differences cannot simply be explained with their ethnic background, researchers of Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing conclude based on qualitative research. For this reason, a person centered, culturally sensitive approach is recommended. The findings are published in the article ‘The Experience of Aging and Perceptions of “Aging Well” Among Older Migrants in the Netherlands’ in this month’s special edition ‘Immigration and Aging’ of the scientific journal The Gerontologist.

Eight focus-group discussions
Scientific research on older migrants often focuses on topics like morbidity and health care (under)use. Older migrants’ overall well-being is largely overlooked, the authors concluded last year in a narrative literature review (in Dutch). How do older migrants experience ageing in the Netherlands? To answer this question, eight focus-group discussions were conducted in early 2018 with the six largest migrant groups in the Netherlands, namely Indo-Dutch and Moluccans, and migrants with European, Surinamese, Antillean, Turkish, and Moroccan background. For the last two groups, we organised separate group discussions for men and women. The participants were relatively healthy older adults living independently, ranging in age from 54 to 88 years old. The discussions were open but the following themes were addressed in all focus groups: becoming older, daily activities, social contacts, living environment, and own initiative and responsibility.

High levels of life satisfaction
The study findings show that in general, older migrants experience ageing more positively than is commonly assumed in the (scientific) literature. Overall, the participants revealed rather high levels of life satisfaction, especially when it comes to their living environment – both in its physical and social manifestation – and social services, such as the quality of health care. Two older Moroccan gentlemen explained that in the Netherlands, “the doctor is better”, “it is safe” and “it is a free country where you can make your own choices”. Key aspects of successful ageing throughout all groups include remaining healthy, independent, and engaged. Nevertheless, some negative aspects of ageing were also mentioned, with differences between groups. The Turkish older adults were more than others concerned with future care arrangements and the role of the government in this regard. Surinamese participants, Indo-Dutch, and Moluccans shared to be highly concerned with their slowly decaying health.

Researcher Nina Conkova PhD: “The predominantly negative image of older adults with a migration background is likely affected by the problematisation of the first generation non-Western migrants. It is time to move beyond categorisations and generalisations and acknowledge the diversity between and within ethnic groups. Let us recognise and make better use of the wisdom and talents of these people.”

Towards a culturally sensitive approach
The research shows that there are major differences in how ageing is experienced between and within groups of older migrants, and that these differences cannot simply be explained with their ethnic background. By generalising problems and their possible solutions, we fail to recognise this diversity, Conkova argues: “The stereotypical ‘older adult’ does not exist, and neither does the ‘older migrant’. Similarly to older adults without a migration background, older migrants  differ greatly in terms of education, income level, knowledge of the Dutch system and policy. Specific to older migrants are their personal migration history and varying levels of Dutch language proficiency.”

Given these findings and the increasing heterogeneity of older adults in general, it is important to move from measuring groups by the same standards to working towards a person-centered, culturally sensitive approach. Conkova: “This approach leaves space for the wishes and desires of each individual and for an individual experience of one’s (migration) background, without assuming automatically that this determines one’s identity.”

The article ‘The Experience of Aging and Perceptions of “Aging Well” Among Older Migrants in the Netherlands’ by Nina Conkova and Jolanda Lindenberg was published online on 30 September 2019 and will appear in the special edition ‘Immigration and Aging’ of scientific journal The Gerontologist:

For more information, please contact Niels Bartels (communications manager) by phone +31 (0)71 524 0960 or by email.

Tineke Abma new director of Leyden Academy

Tineke Abma new director of Leyden Academy

Leiden, The Netherlands, 11 September 2019 – Tineke Abma, professor of Participation & Diversity at Amsterdam UMC will become director of the knowledge institute Leyden Academy of Vitality and Ageing as of 1 December 2019. She will succeed Professor Joris Slaets, who is retiring on the same date.

For over twenty-five years, Tineke Abma has been researching themes closely related to ageing, such as patient and citizen participation, long-term care, ethics and diversity. She has been working at Amsterdam UMC (formerly VUmc) since 2009; first as special professor of Client Participation in Elderly Care and later as full-time professor of Participation & Diversity. Abma is looking forward to working at Leyden Academy: “In striving to improve the quality of life of older people, Leyden Academy covers the entire spectrum from vitality to elderly care and images of ageing. The perspective of the older individual is always the starting point, with respect for every person’s uniqueness. This is also what drives me.” Abma will remain a professor in Amsterdam for one day a week.

Joris Slaets has been director of Leyden Academy since 1 January 2015. He remains connected to the institute as a researcher in the Enjoying life project. Slaets is pleased with his successor: “I see many similarities in our scientific interests and personal motivations. Valuing the differences between people, taking their point of view seriously and, if necessary, being prepared to challenge the status quo. We also share the conviction that quality lies in personal narratives and experiences. I wish Tineke all the best.”

Dr. Wim van den Goorbergh, Chairman of Leyden Academy’s Supervisory Board: “In the past five years, Joris Slaets has made an important contribution to the further development of Leyden Academy, through ambitious studies and projects focused on the well-being of older people in nursing home care. We thank Joris for his vision and leadership. We are convinced that Tineke Abma will add her own accents to Leyden Academy, based on her rich experience in participative action research in care and well-being.”

For more information, please contact Niels Bartels (communications manager) by phone: +31 (0)71 524 0960 or by email.


Looking for the new Leyden Academy portrait

Looking for the new Leyden Academy portrait

Each year, alternatingly the portrait of a vital older man or woman is chosen to represent our institute on communication outings (e.g. for website, brochures, banners etc.).
For this year, from 11-11-2019 through 11-11-2020, we are looking for a man (from 75 years or older) who radiates a lust for life.


  • Several photos of multiple persons may be submitted.
  • The management and communication department at Leyden Academy will choose the ‘winning’ portrait.
  • The picture is royalty-free and will be used by Leyden Academy.
  • Photos can be submitted up to 7 Otcober 2019 to Yvonne Schinkel-Koemans at
Summer School: innovative interventions for chronic diseases

Summer School: innovative interventions for chronic diseases

To change the future of healthcare: this was the ambitious challenge for the 35 PhDs, Master students and young professionals who joined the euVENTION Summer School from July 21st till August 2nd in Heidelberg, Germany. After a successful edition in Leiden in 2018, this year’s EIT Health Summer School was aimed at developing innovative interventions for chronic diseases. In a challenging 2-week course, teams of students learned to shape their rough idea into viable business models, in close cooperation with their (older) target audiences.

Creating music with eyetracking glasses
On Friday August 2nd, the teams pitched their ideas to an expert jury. The innovations ranged from creating music with smart eyetracking glasses to apps that enable the smart use of electronic patient records. One team presented an intervention using artificial intelligence to prevent mental health issues, another team chose to develop software and wearables that assist older people and their families with independent ageing.

Participants from all over the globe
The 35 participants formed a very diverse group. Their academic backgrounds ranged from Computer Science to Medicine, and from Biomedical engineering to Rheumatology. The students joined the Summer School from all over the world: from various EU-countries, and from counties like Brazil, China, Ecuador, Lebanon and India. What all participants had in common was an incredible drive to learn and succeed.

euVENTION 2019 was an EIT Health Summer School, organised by Universität Heidelberg, Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg, Leyden Academy, SAP and Universidade de Coimbra. 

American nursing students visit Leyden Academy

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.

Whitepaper: Health is as important as wealth in retirement

Whitepaper: Health is as important as wealth in retirement

People should be encouraged to think about their health rather than concentrate solely on financial matters as part of realistic planning for retirement, according to the new whitepaper Broadening the view on retirement: Health and Retirement. The paper was published today by the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement and Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing. Health can enable or impede aspirations for retirement and quickly dash long-held dreams of how people would fill their retirement days, say whitepaper authors David van Bodegom, Frank Schalkwijk and Mike Mansfield.

Health requires long-term planning and commitment
Gerontologists and medical doctors Van Bodegom and Schalkwijk of Leyden Academy argue that although many age-related diseases and disabilities only become apparent in retirement, preventive strategies aimed at healthy behavior are most effective when they are started earlier in life and during working lives. Preventive strategies can be applied within the working environment, but naturally extend to the home environment and public spaces. Mike Mansfield, Program Director of Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement adds: ‘The data of the Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2019 show that, in addition to the preventive benefits for health in older age, healthy behaviors during working lives have a positive effect on the retirement readiness of employees.’

Retirement as a teachable moment
However, it is never too late to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and even retirement itself may trigger people to change their unhealthy routines. When a life event or circumstance leads to a higher probability of adopting behavioral change, this is called a “teachable moment”. Since the moment of retirement itself could be a teachable moment for health behavioral change, medical professionals, welfare workers, local governments, employers and pension providers should work together and seize the opportunity to guide people to effective healthy lifestyle interventions.

Beyond the traditional financial scope
The authors urge employers and pension providers to explore the opportunities for offering guidance to successful retirement beyond the traditional financial scope. Focusing on the health of employees and retirees should be part of any retirement planning scenario.

About the whitepaper series
The Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement has invited the researchers of Leyden Academy to help reflect on retirement from different academic angles, and inspire Aegon to encourage the debate on retirement beyond the traditional financial scope. This has resulted in the whitepapers Why do we retire? (December 2018) and the edition on Health and retirement published today. In the two papers that will follow, we will further broaden the view on retirement from the perspectives of well-being and the image of retirement.