Universiteit Leiden

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Cath prize for lectures in care homes

The Edisen Foundation has won the 2016 Mr. K.J. Cath prize. This student organisation set up by two Leiden students gives lectures in care homes.

Education for senior citizens

Senior citizens and young people have too little contact with one another. This finding by students of Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences Christophe Mombers and Arian Khoshchin prompted them to set up the Edison Foundation in 2015. The name comes from Education for Senior Citizens. Edisen develops and organises lectures by students for senior citizens in care homes.

Christophe Mombers (left) and Arian Khoshchin (right) with rector Carel Stolker

Altruistic initiative

The Cath prize jury was impressed by the contribution that Edisen makes to the mental health and vitality of older people. They also considered it a credit to Leiden University that the students have an important bridging role between university and society. In the words of the jury report, the Cath prize can be regarded as an encouragement to enterprising students who engage in altruistic initiatives.

Lectures at the right level

The Edisen lectures are adapted to the level of the public and are intended as infotainment: entertainment with an informative background. That means a lot of visual images, and little text. Edisen’s aim is for the lectures to be ‘lively and light’, and the audience is never more than 15 people, so that there is opportunity for interaction. The lectures cover a very diverse range of topics, ranging from optical illusions, urban myths and the Ancient Greeks to cultural differences, sleep, virtual reality and conspiracy theorists. All the students who take part can develop their own lectures, which then have to be incorporated into Edisen's portfolio. The foundation is already active in The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht.

Ambition: more virtual reality

More than weekly lectures

There are two benefits of this initiative, just as the originators of the project intended: being involved in society and gaining experience. The modest compensation of 15 euros per lecture comes from what the care centres contribute for the lectures. Edisen is a great success: in 2015 the Leiden students gave 45 lectures. This is at least to some extent due to the professional approach: high standards are imposed both on the organisation and on the material and student lecturers.

Ambitions

The students were pleased and honoured with the award of the Cath prize, and with the 2,500 euro prize money. They stressed that Edisen originated in the University. 'Because without the University there would be no students. Not only that, the University always encourages us to put our ambitious ideas into practice.' One of the ambitions for this year is to make more use of virtual reality. ‘It's a new way of stimulating older people, and it also promotes interactions between young and old.'

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