Helping instead of paying rent
Students have little money for expensive rents; elderly people often live alone in large apartments. The concept of “Living for Help” solves both problems.
Germany. In their flat share there is a 55 years age difference: the student Hanna (23) is glad to have a room near the university; the pensioner Marlene (78) is glad to have pleasant company and help with the house and garden. Because she lends a helping hand, Hanna doesn’t have to pay rent.
In German university cities, affordable housing for students is scarce. In Munich, a 30 square metres room costs an average of 634 euros per month. It is a matter of luck whether you find a place in the university dormitories or a student flat share by the beginning of the semester. On the other hand, there is a lot of unused living space: in Germany about one in three people over the age of 65 lives alone because his or her partner has died and the kids have long since moved out.
“Living for Help” in 30 cities
What is more reasonable than living communities of young and old? Such initiatives, which have combined in the Federal Association of Living for Help, exist in more than 30 cities. Students can inquire about them at the student services. The framework has now been expanded; families, single parents and people with disabilities also offer free rooms for help in the household.
Help with housework – but not caring
The basic rule is that, for each square metre of living space made available to students, they provide an hour of help per month. They don’t live completely free of charge, however, because they have to pay small amounts for utilities such as electricity, heating and water.
The kind of help provided depends on the needs of the flat or house owner; for example, it might be shopping, cleaning, cooking, garden or manual work, or keeping company on walks or playing cards. Caring and nursing are excluded. The share partners define the tasks together and set them down in a contract.
The chemistry must be right
Sounds good in theory, but in practice there are also problems, as in any living community; only here the difference between generations also plays a part. It doesn’t work without mutual openness and consideration. Therefore experienced facilitators bring together suitable share partners and advise them about the form of the contract. The experience of participants in the initiative has been mainly positive; most students and elderly feel the residential partnerships are enriching.