Mehrgenerationenhaus: A case for intergenerational collaboration

BY Fernando L. Mompó on 09 / 05 / 2014

Contrary to the business world, social entrepreneurship should be the natural context and engine for more collaboration. If growing complexity is a main driving force for collaboration between companies, just simple growing number of social problems to be solved should be powering collaboration of individuals and groups as citizens.

One of the tolls we pay today to modern life is lacking the intergenerational relationships that have been traditional for centuries, when some different generations living together under the same roof was the norm. Coming back to regain again some benefits of this relationship is not just a question of  a nostalgic view of the past, but a way to find a solution to a very current problems that are about to get worse in the near future. 

In most of western countries, the number of over-65s  is expected to double in just a couple of decades. Besides, retirement is still considered for many more of a curse than a blessing, derivering even in some cases in psiquiatric problems as depression caused by among other causes by diminishing social connections or the feeling of not being useful to others. At the same time, in those very same western countries accesing to childcare is becoming more and more difficult and expensive.

In Germany, multigenerational houses (Mehrgenerationenhaus) try to solve both problems in one swoop. Mehrgenerationenhaus were established in Lower Saxony in 2003 by Ursula von der Leyen, then family minister of the region. Whe she was promoted to a national level she started a plan to open 500 such centres across the country and give them  50,000 euros a year each. Multigenerational houses are a key part of Germany’s ageing population plan. In these centers, for instance, pensioners volunteer to read books to the children once a week and also run a ‘rent-a-granny’ service to relieve parents. In return, teenagers offer to show elderly people how to use computers and mobile phones.

Some other Co- initiatives to solve similar problem are starting to be considered, as the increasingly popular “Co-habitation” projects. In Canada Home Share aims to connect students looking for affordable accommodation with those over 50 living alone. The idea behind the scheme is that those attending college in the region will be looking for cheap rent, while older homeowners whose children are also away to study will have a space in their home. Students benefit from comfortable accommodation that is much less expensive than the town’s average private rented property prices and the elderly benefit by having company and someone who can help them around the house.

Speaking Exchange is an educational project that connects students and seniors over the Internet. Young students have the opportunity to improve their english talking with seniors living in retirement communities.Thus, a conversation exercise is also an act of solidarity and personal growth.

In Spain, Siempre Vivo (Always Active) is a teaching platform to learn a new skill, a new hobby or a new trade from an artist, craftsman or expert always  45+ years old.

The Guardian on Germany’s ‘multigeneration houses’

CNA – Speaking Exchange

Homes Share

Siempre Vivo (Always Active)

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