New Brunswick

University students living with seniors? N.B. project wants a closer look

University students and senior citizens might seem like unconventional roommates, but intergenerational housing has been growing in popularity in bigger Canadian cities like Ottawa and Toronto. But how would those living arrangements work in a small city like Fredericton?

Project aims to explore the benefits of seniors and students living together

People discussed the values of intergenerational housing at a public meeting Saturday. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

University students and senior citizens might seem like unconventional roommates, but intergenerational housing has been growing in popularity in bigger Canadian cities like Ottawa and Toronto.

But how would those living arrangements work in a small city like Fredericton?

The Ville Cooperative community centre is creating a pilot project to answer that question.

The Intergenerational Housing Pilot Project will be a two-year study of 10 pairs of students and seniors living together in the Fredericton area.

During that time, project co-ordinator Adam Weaver said a replicable model of the program will be developed that can be implemented across the province.

"At the end of that we should have a pretty solid system of how we can matchmake people and what that's going to look like in the future," Weaver said.

Fredericton a perfect testing ground

He said the number of post-secondary institutions in the city make it an ideal testing ground.

"We've got no shortage of schools, we've got no shortage of seniors in senior homes and senior organizations like Stepping Stone."

The Ville plans to streamline the matching process for the project by partnering with Happipad, a Kelowna-based software company that matches for homesharing.

"It's like Airbnb mixed with Tinder," Weaver said.

Adam Weaver is the co-ordinator for the Ville's Intergenerational Housing Pilot Project. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

Some models for intergenerational living are based on an exchange of meals and lodging for volunteer hours, which can encompass everything from doing chores, running errands or just spending quality time.

The Ville's pilot project plans to leave compensation arrangements up to each pair depending on what works best for each individual.

"Whether it's money or time or a mixture, and it might be very well best as a mixture," Weaver said.

Weaver hopes a medley of different styles and arrangements of intergenerational living will broaden the project's scope of knowledge.

Robyn Metcalfe, a project intern and gerontology student at St. Thomas University, said Fredericton should be a good fit for intergenerational housing based on her research.

Programs in Ottawa have been very successful, she said, and could work as a good model.

"Although Ottawa is a bigger city, [it] is still community based, so even though it's bigger than Fredericton it's not that different."

The values of intergenerational living

A focus group discussed the project on Saturday at the Ville. The discussion centred on the values and benefits of seniors and students living together.

The group concluded companionship, health, security and sharing of knowledge were some of those values.

Madeleine Gaudet, a board member of Stepping Stone Senior Centre, said the learning experiences of intergenerational living seem invaluable to her.

Madeleine Gaudet said she thinks the learning potential of intergenerational living is invaluable. (Angela Bosse/CBC)

She mentioned how the benefits of companionship would motivate both seniors and students to prepare healthier meals.

Project organizers are applying for funding from the Healthy Seniors Pilot Project, a $75-million program between the New Brunswick government and Public Health Agency of Canada.

Happy Seniors will fund research to see how communities and governments can improve quality of life for seniors.

Weaver estimates they would need about $150,000 to fund several positions and ensure the project can continue.

"Everybody loves the project so I feel very confident in getting the funding. If we don't get it from that then we're going to get it from somewhere else."

Project organizers plan to start matching pairs by September.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Bosse

Reporter

Angela Bosse is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick. Story tip? angela.bosse@cbc.ca

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