House sharing in France can benefit retired people and the young

Intergenerational house sharing is growing in popularity in France as a solution to both housing problems and feelings of isolation

Intergenerational house sharing has mutual benefits for both the older generation and students alike
Published Last updated

Several companies, such as Colette, Xenia and Cohabilis, now organise house shares by pairing someone below the age of 30 with an elderly person who has a spare room.

This allows younger people to pay less for accommodation while the hosts earn extra income. It can also be comforting to have someone else in the house, especially for pensioners who can feel isolated.

International students who are studying in France may also find it reassuring – and their parents do, too.

Anthéa Claux, 22, has been staying with Hélène, a pensioner, for almost three years since moving to Paris to study bilingual journalism, and has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

“I am very busy with my studies but sometimes I spend the day or evening with her. We chat about our problems and we give each other advice,” she told The Connexion

Ms Claux is set to move out in June but will stay in contact with Hélène: “We have bonded in our time living together and our relationship will continue for years to come, I hope.”

She added that finding accommodation in Paris at the beginning of her studies was “extremely difficult” due to high prices and a shortage of suitable properties. Intergenerational house sharing represented an affordable and safe solution.

A way to give something back

While there is a financial incentive for older participants, the scheme also has less tangible benefits. 

“Retirees who host younger people often tell us that they feel useless in society. This is a way for them to give something back and help out the younger generation,” Colette’s marketing manager Juliette Millet explained to The Connexion (though not all hosts are retired). 

The benefits work both ways. Some everyday tasks are difficult for elderly people, so having a young person around can solve this problem. 

“For things like standing on a chair to change a lightbulb or technology problems, the younger person can easily step in and help out,” Ms Millet said.

To become a host, you must be over 60 years old and where you live must be your main residence (it does not matter if you rent or own it). 

Speaking French is not obligatory. Ms Millet said the majority of tenants are female students coming from abroad, who often do not speak French themselves. 

Read more: Could this method help if you lack confidence in learning French?

Colette has organised house shares for more than 72 different nationalities and speaking different languages is actually a bonus. 

Benefits are not solely financial

For Marie-Christine Ober, 64, who has hosted five people through Colette over the past three years, the main appeal was obvious: money.

“I had a spare room and it helps with the bills,” she said.

However, there have been unexpected advantages: “I have hosted several young, female students and they have all been very well brought up. I have rented out rooms before and through Colette it is a lot more reassuring because the students are well vetted.

“For example, I am currently hosting Eva. She has her life, I have my life and we are quite independent. We chat in the kitchen, which is nice, but more importantly, we have total respect for each other which makes it very easy to live together.” 

She plans on renting out her room through Colette for the foreseeable future and would recommend it to others. 

Renting through Colette is on average 30% cheaper than through websites such as for the younger person. 

A financial benefit for the hosts is that Colette calculates the highest rent that they can charge which will not be taxed. 

Easy for students to sign up

To sign up, the student or young professional must fill out a questionnaire and provide proof of enrolment if they study, plus proof of identity. As opposed to conventional renting, they do not need a guarantor or a dossier, which can prove a considerable obstacle.

Finally, they film a short video showcasing their personality. Colette then matches them with a sénior with similar expectations of shared living, such as whether they want to spend time together and share some meals, or whether they want to be independent. 

The host then decides whether to accept the applicant.

At Colette, the older person must be able to live independently, so the young person is not a live-in carer. 

Some organisations offer cheaper rent for the lodger but, in return, they help out their hosts with household tasks and promise a certain amount of time every week.