Hand Over Hand (H2O) Network offers a solution to the student housing shortage as well as the social isolation and loneliness of seniors – two major challenges in our society. Historically, the old and the young interacted much more than they do today in our society. Our goal is to improve this interaction and combat ageism by connecting the young with the young at heart.
Many seniors prefer to continue to live with a good level of personal independence in their own homes. Those who need help with basic household tasks may choose to share their homes for free or at an affordable rate to students who have been interviewed by the H2O Network and have passed a police background check. This exchange offers the homeowner security, companionship and help for an agreed amount of time each week.
Living with a student where there is frequent engagement in conversation can contribute to a senior’s mental, emotional, and social health. In turn, this sharing of lessons learned is likely to be well received by the student.
Reciprocity is the key : students who need affordable housing and want to provide friendship, assistance, and a sense of security can have their needs met while contributing to the quality of life of the seniors who provide housing and friendship. The H2O Network aims to enhance community engagement and offer a better quality of life for both seniors and students in our society.
Where are we heading?!
North America has become more compartmentalized over time. The suburbs are full of families with young children who move away when they become young adults; older adults that need health services are segregated in their communities and long-term care facilities. More than half Ontario residents — and three-quarters of those over the age of 65 — live in houses that are bigger than they need, leaving five million spare bedrooms across the province, according to a 2017 report by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis.
People age 65+ make up 15.6% of Toronto’s population.
In the 2016 Census by Statistics Canada, seniors age 65+ outnumbered children under 15 in Toronto for the first time.
Within the past few years, inter-generational living programs between college students and senior housing residents have grown in number. There are variations of this model around the world; the total number of these programs is unknown as they vary in size and framework. As baby boomers and millennials alike face overwhelming housing costs, schools and community groups across the country have embraced various kinds of shared-living programs, such as a housing co-op in Winnipeg where women can grow old together and a retirement home in London, Ontario, that hosts Western University students.
One major outcome of inter-generational living is the potential to combat ageism by bringing older and younger adults into a shared space and enabling valuable social interactions to occur. Inter-generational contact, the actual person-to-person contact, is crucial to combating ageism.