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French city has students living in elderly care homes

Students in Montpellier are addressing the issue of elderly loneliness and benefitting from cheaper rent themselves in an exchange that is permitting young people to live in elderly care homes.

The scheme has been piloted with 11 students, all of whom are living in Ehpad homes across the city.

For this, they pay very low rent - between €140-250 per month - and in return, must interact in a meaningful way with the elderly residents.

This could mean befriending and talking to them for several hours a week, encouraging them to be more active, helping them with everyday tasks, or playing a musical instrument in the home.

The students are living in renovated apartments on the grounds of the care homes; many of which were previously used by former Ehpad directors.

Each student must bring a defined project to the home, and demonstrate how they plan to use their skills and time to enrich the lives of the elderly residents for at least three hours a week.

These have included creating a blog that explains the lives of the residents and their passions; improving links between the older people and their families; offering music therapy workshops, or coordinating a schedule of film showings.

In one home, a boules (pétanque) area has also been installed to encourage the older people - and the students - to get more active.

The city’s social affairs minister, Annie Yague, said: “The aim is to break up the isolation in which residents can often find themselves.”

One student, who is studying music therapy and taking part in the scheme, said: “The project interested me on a human level. I knew that this could bring something to the residents, and to me too. I speak to [the older people] a lot - some of them really need to talk.”

Another student, who is studying social work, said: “Even though we live in an old people’s home, it really feels like our home. There are no set bedtimes, and if we want to order a pizza, we can - we just call for a delivery as normal.”

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