British Columbia

Kelowna initiative pairs seniors seeking company with students seeking housing

A senior and a university student aren't typical roommates — but Judy Askeland and Johannah Wirzba say their unusual housing arrangement in Kelowna, B.C., makes life easier for both of them.

Judy Askeland and Johannah Wirzba say their unusual housing arrangement makes life easier for both of them

Johannah Wirzba, left, and Judy Askeland have been roommates for a couple of weeks. (Johannah Wirzba)

A senior and a university student aren't typical roommates — but Judy Askeland and Johannah Wirzba say their unusual housing arrangement in Kelowna, B.C., makes life easier for both of them.

The pair found each other through a Kelowna-based initiative called iGen, which pairs students looking for cheaper rent with seniors seeking companionship through an app called Happipad.

"I'm an elderly lady, I lived alone and I have a mortgage," said Askeland, 70.

"A couple things had come along where it would be nice to just have the company of another body in your house and also to just help with some of the daily tasks."

So she started looking for a roommate.

"I was a little bit reticent to really jump in with both feet right from the very beginning," Askeland told Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South.

"I haven't shared my space for a long, long time and I didn't know how I was going to respond to that."

'Built-in community'

Wirzba, a masters student at UBC Okanagan, was looking for a place to live in Kelowna after moving for school.

"I was moving from out of province and the rent prices scared me a little bit," she said.

"I didn't know anyone in Kelowna, I was moving here all by myself. So, I thought, wouldn't it be cool if there was a built-in community in where you live?"

Finding the option to pair up with a senior like Askeland "worked out quite perfectly," Wirzba said.

Wirzba and Askeland have been roommates for a couple weeks.

Honeymoon phase

Living together with people generations apart can present challenges, Wirzba said, but the program they used tries to mitigate that as much as possible.

There are resources to help build a roommate agreement, if needed, and mediators available in case something goes wrong.

"In our case, we haven't needed much of either," Wirzba said.

"We've settled in quite quickly — we have our own space and we do what we can to make it comfortable for ourselves and for each other."

Askeland said she's hopeful the arrangement will continue to go well.

"We're still honeymooning right now because Johannah has only been here a couple of weeks. But as the time goes on, as we get to know each other even more … I feel that the relationship is really growing and becoming stronger," she said.

With files from Daybreak South.

Read more from CBC British Columbia

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.