With an ever-growing and ageing worldwide population along with rising living costs for the younger generation, and a well-documented ‘loneliness epidemic’, can all three be tackled together?

Last year the problem of loneliness in the older generations became a huge issue on a global scale for the health agendas. The British Government created a role for its first Minister for Loneliness, and a US health insurer identified an ‘epidemic’ based on a survey of 20,000 Americans. The EU also revealed statistics showing that 32% of over 65’s within the EU live on their own.

The younger generations in contrast around the world are finding it hard to afford the rising living costs. In England, it is reported that house prices have risen by 173% in the past two decades (Institute for Fiscal Studies), and rental costs have risen on average from £140 to £200 a week. Alongside this, the average salary for 25 – 34 year olds has only risen by 19% in the past two decades.

Italy

A new initiative in Italy is hoping to tackle the problems together and at the same time. Milan is home to 180,000 students, of which 72% come from outside the city. 320,000 people in the city are aged over 65 and many of these live in homes that are much bigger than what they require.

The “adopt a student’ scheme matches retired people with space in their homes, to young people looking for a place to live. The student will pay a contribution to the host, much like they would rent payments, but as a subsidised amount may help out with housework, errands and provide company.

This arrangement has a positive impact on both host and student, as they both get something beneficial from the deal. In 2018 a BBC study reported that people aged 16 – 24 years experienced loneliness more often and intensely than all other age groups, 40% said that they felt lonely ‘very often’ or ‘often’. A surprising result from such a young age group.

Since 2004 there have been over 650 matches, after Japan, Italy has the second-oldest population worldwide. As other developed countries have ageing populations it is being seen that other similar schemes are developing in other places. In 2016 the UK-based website ‘Spareroom’ published that the number of users on their website who were 65 and above had increased 600% in the past 5 years.

New Ideas

In the Netherlands, Humanitas is a retirement community of several hundred residents living with everything they need on-site. Living alongside the residents are 6 students who have committed at least 30 hours a week to engage in activities within the community in exchange for food and somewhere to stay. The idea of the scheme encourages the students to be ‘good neighbours’.

As the worldwide population is growing, and living for longer, what new initiatives will we see in the coming years?

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