Hans Becker: Transforming Retirement Living in The Netherlands

The ACCESS Health team in Sweden has just published a new interview with Dr. Hans Becker, a man the Financial Times recently dubbed a “maverick” who is transforming retirement living.

Dr. Becker has a unique philosophy when it comes to elder care: autonomy to the utmost degree. He has built more than fifteen Humanitas Apartments for Life housing complexes for the elderly in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In these complexes, staff are encouraged to meet every need of their elderly populations, whether it be prime rib steak first thing in the morning or bringing zoo animals on site so residents can amuse their grandchildren when they visit.

“People like to make their own decisions,” said Dr. Becker in the interview with ACCESS Health. “They want to be in control of their lives. Nursing and elder homes do not permit that. You are given coffee only at 10 am. You cannot have it at 9:30 am. You are not allowed to drink every day. You are no longer in charge of your own life. You live in a room in an institute. The institute model is not humane.”

Dr. Becker’s Apartments for Life are based on four core beliefs: (1) “Be your own boss”, which empowers residents to make decisions for themselves; (2) “Use it or lose it”, which encourages residents to remain physically and mentally active; (3) “Extended family approach”, which eliminates the divide between residents and care providers by involving residents in daily work; and a (4) “Culture of yes” where staff do their best to agree to any new idea, proposal, or request from a resident.

Dr. Becker’s model of care has inspired organizations around the world. You can read the full interview between ACCESS Health Program Manager Sofia Widen and Mr. Becker here. The interview was conducted as part of a wider initiative to help Swedish health and elder care providers better understand best practices in elder care from other countries. Click here if you would like to read other interviews on elder care in the Netherlands.