Highlights of the Youth We Can! afterwork –  Juniors, seniors: together, we are stronger!

Every second Wednesday of each month, the Youth We Can! Afterworks shines the light on committed and passionate young people who share their experiences and their vision of a more inclusive and sustainable society. The goal of these afterworks is to motivate people who don’t dare to commit themselves to a good cause and to support them to do so!

For its September monthl afterwork, the Youth We Can ! collective met to discuss the intergenerational bond at La REcyclerie, a sustainable place in the “Petite Ceinture” of Paris. Accompanying an elder to its medical appointment, helping them displace furniture, sharing an apartment with them or just buy them a drink… there are lots of different things for young people to do with elders in order to build a strong bond of solidarity and friendship. At the last Youth We Can! afterwork on October 9, 2019, 5 persons, including 4 young people and an elder lady came to share their experiences about building and maintaining an intergenerational link.

Doing a favor, go walking, sharing a drink or blowing candles… how to connect young people to elders?

Numerous organizations put young people in relation with elders for them to share nice moments together. Paris en Compagnie is one of them. Supported by the City of Paris, the project was built by tree organizations: Petits Frères des Pauvres, Lulu dans ma rue et Autonomie Paris Saint-Jacques. Its goal is to stop the isolation of elders by putting them in relation with committed citizens thanks to a mobile application, so that elders can be accompanied in their daily tasks or amusements.

After finishing business school, Nesma wanted to have a job that makes sense and has a positive impact on society. Today, she is a communication officer at Paris en Compagnie. She works with more than 700 engaged citizens who accompany the 600 elders registered on the app and break their isolation. Among them, Paule, aged 87, a “regular” of Paris en Compagnie’s program, as she says. She quickly appreciated being surrounded by young people. They bring her comfort and allow her to got out and not “watch television alone all day long”. Having a drink or going for a walk accompanied by young people makes her daily life more enjoyable.

Improving elder’s daily life is also the goal of Alexandre. By helping his grand-mother do small things such as plugging a printer or putting a song in a playlist, he realized how elders needed help to go through “small daily challenges”, as he call them, and especially those linked to digital. After he engaged himself in the fight against food waste by co-founding Graapz, Alexandre decided to pursue his career as a social-entrepreneur by committing himself to help elders age well. Therefore, he founded Allo Louis, an intergenerational service providing help to elders by putting them in relation with students of their neighborhood. From changing a lightbulb to moving furniture, elders have a fair amount of needs that young people can face easily. This service thus helps elders to go through “small daily challenges” and allows students to get some pocket change at the end. It also provides both of them some company and allow people from different age groups to build a precious bond.

Intergenerational co-housing: a remedy against elders’ exclusion and students’ struggle to find an affordable place to live

Rather than occasional activities, certain young people prefer sharing their daily lives with an elder person. It is the case of Salomé, a young woman studying arts in Paris. She used to read books to an elder person she knew, so when she had to move in Paris, she naturally chose to live with a 94 years old woman whose relatives were looking for a roommate on Gens de confiance. Intergenerational co-housing is helping her reduce the costs that come with Parisian life, but it is also a beautiful human experience. At the beginning, Salomé occasionally visited her “Parisian grandma” but today, she is almost always with her because they build a strong friendship. “If she did not go to the hairdresser, I can help with her coloration, but I can also make her diner or read her a story just for pleasure”, she says. She insists that they both benefit from living together; Salomé helps her “Parisian grandma” with her daily tasks, but she also says she found her “foster family in Paris”.

Various associations propose to young people and elders to live together, such as Ensemble2générations, an association aiming to build and maintain a mutual aid between students and seniors by intergenerational co-housing contracts. Based in Paris, in Île-de-France and in 26 other French cities, Ensemble2générations wants to resolve two problems: the lack and the expensive character of housing for students and the exclusion of elder people. Catherine, project officer at Ensemble2générations, says the benefits of intergenerational co-housing are mutual. Three formulas are proposed to students for them to adapt their schedule. Among them, a free formula where the student lives at the elder’s home and must be with them 6 nights on 7 and 2 week-ends per month. But “students are not professional home help! They must feel like they are at grandma’s”, says Catherine. The 5 000 duos formed since 2006 are not build as a relation between helpers and beneficiaries but on a solidarity-based model which is far more personal and warm. These contracts last 2 years in average and are appreciated by both students and elders.

Decided to engage yourself? Find the associations we discussed about during the afterwork online: