My colleague, Audrey Miller, recently blogged about the trend in adult children looking for someone to live with their elderly parent in exchange for free rent (albeit the living arrangement may require light caregiving). In her blog, Ms. Miller highlighted the costs associated with care provided by care agencies, and commented that it may be worth pursuing care arrangements where students live with the elderly. Just how practical is this idea? Spain, the United States and the Netherlands are examples of countries which have already implemented their own unique versions of intergenerational living, where the elderly can live and socialize with Generation Y. No matter how the intergenerational living programs are executed, however, it seems that they all hinge on the idea of social interaction between the young and the old.
Humanitas, for example, is a nursing home in the Netherlands that has successfully bridged the gap between the two generations. Local university students can live at Humanitas, rent free, so long as they spend 30 hours each month with the resident’s seniors. Watching TV, celebrating special events and playing games all count towards the 30 hours per month requirement.
A similar program exists in Cleveland, Ohio. When students at the Cleveland Institute of Music began having difficulty finding housing, Judson Retirement Community offered an innovative living arrangement for students. In exchange for rent-free housing, students live with approximately 120 seniors and perform solo recitals and impromptu concerts for their elderly neighbours.
Spain has also launched its own version of intergenerational living, testing the idea of housing the elderly with students. The program has been so successful that it has been implemented in 27 cities across Spain.
Care services for the elderly are no doubt expensive. But, the issue of costs aside, one objective in providing an environment where seniors can live with young students is simply to combat the unfavorable aspects of senior living, such as isolation and loneliness (which, according to some researchers, can increase the risk of death by 26%). After all, social relationships are central to human well-being and maintenance of health. For seniors, students can provide a connection to the outside world and help them feel less isolated.
Such programs can also assist students from low-income families to be able to afford university education by helping them save money on rent. As well, intergenerational living can be more than a simple solution to student debt. For example, one student commented that, “Elderly people are very full of life. As a student, you can learn a lot.” For some others, such living arrangements can feel like an extension of one’s own family.
Intergenerational housing seems to be a win-win for both students and seniors. Students are able to save money in exchange for creating a better quality of life for their senior neighbour(s) by simply socializing with them. In return, the elder residents have stories and, surely, a few lessons to share.