How can we help more seniors age in place, provide affordable housing opportunities to students, and support safe, caring, welcoming intergenerational friendships?
A few weeks ago I met with Canada HomeShare, an intergenerational housing program that addresses social isolation by bringing together seniors and students, who are bridging generational divides by providing students across the country with an affordable and flexible off-campus housing experience in the homes of older adults.
In exchange for reduced rent, the student provides up to seven hours of companionship and/or assistance with completing light household tasks, such as preparing and sharing meals, tidying up, carrying groceries, or walking a pet.
Canada Homeshare has funding for a pilot program here in Alberta and I’ve helped try to connect them to potential academic, community, and research partners. In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the intergenerational initiative as an age-friendly best practice. Canada HomeShare is also building a network of “HomeShare” communities across the country that will be connected to researchers, health and community services, policymakers and clinicians, creating opportunities for knowledge exchange, data sharing, and the pooling of resources.
As of March, 2021, there were about 670,000 seniors in Alberta. By 2035, close to one in five people in Alberta will be a senior, and there will be more than one million seniors in the province. The government has a strong focus on aging in community, but not everyone can afford to live in their own home. Anecdotally, there are approximately 12 million spare bedrooms across Canada.
There are other homeshare programs and initiatives worth investigating, and I know many informal home share arrangements exist. Pre-pandemic my family was excited to welcome students through the Canada Homestay Network program. Intergenerational homeshare can build relationships across generations, fight ageism, and support affordability for all parties.
As we try to improve the well-being of Edmontonains and build an affordable city for all ages, stages, and wages, creative partnerships like Canada Homeshare could play a big part.
I also really enjoyed this podcast on Shared Housing from strongtowns:
Annamarie Pluhar is an expert on co-housing and shared housing, and is the author of the book Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates. She’s also a consultant with expertise in group dynamics, interpersonal relations, and instructional design. And, she herself has lived in shared housing for most of her adult life.
Despite the fact that practically the entire nation is experiencing a housing crisis, 27% of homes in the U.S. are single occupancy. In other words, one in four adults lives alone, and this is a serious cause of social isolation for many people. Shared housing can be a solution not only for addressing our scarcity of housing, but also for relieving psychological distress for a significant portion of the population.
A Strong Town should have many different options for housing. Pluhar shares her expertise on how we can begin including co-housing among those choices, and how the transition to shared housing doesn’t have to be intimidating for individuals.