Paris, France

An international commercial, political and cultural center, Paris has long been one of the most expensive cities to live in.  As a result, both students and the elderly had have a hard times paying for housing and services within the city.  However, as highlighted in this piece by PRI, a  new program sponsored by the City of Paris aims to change this.  The program pairs cash-strapped students with elderly apartment dwellers who need some help staying in their own homes.

PRI’s piece shows us just how this program is working for 83-year-old Mauricette Borloo and 21-year-old Lorene Borey.   Borloo had lived alone in her three-bedroom Paris apartment since her husband died 28 years ago.  “Borloo has three grown children, grandchildren and even a few great grandchildren, as evidenced by the array of family photos on her coffee table. Borloo said her youngest son told her about the intergenerational roommates program and encouraged her to participate. He was concerned about her being on her own during the night,” writes PRI.   Borey, a college senior, moved in last fall.  In exchange for helping Mauricette, “she lives [with her] for free, in a city where the smallest studio apartment goes for about $1,100 dollars a month.”

The initiative has so far been successful.  Guyonne Dartiguenave, who has been tasked of pairing up the seniors with the students, says that “[t]he group matched about 200 roommate pairs for this academic year.”  All the students commit to staying at home six evenings a week and every night.  However, not the pairings do not always work.  “The senior has to be psychologically ready to welcome a student into their home. Very often, grown children encourage their elderly parents to participate. But the senior does it to please their children, it falls apart,” Dartiguenave said.  She added that her group sometimes has to intervene to resolve minor conflicts, but it’s rare for a student to be removed or re-assigned. It happened in one case, she said, when an elderly woman’s health deteriorated to the point where it became too much for the student to handle. Dartiguenave said students are there to help out, not to act as home help aides.

In their interview, both Borloo and Borey expressed being happy with the pairing. “We are very comfortable with one another,” Borloo said. “She’s well brought up. She keeps her room tidy. We often chat when she comes home in the evening. It’s pleasant.”   Borey says: “she’s really an easy going person.”  She than adds that “I’ve been lucky with this person, with this apartment, because she has got a lot of other people caring for her.”  Finally, she explains that “this opportunity came at a perfect time.” Her parents couldn’t help her out financially this year because her younger sister is starting college. Borey said that she would definitely recommend the experience.

Take a few minutes to listen to PRI’s piece and share your thoughts with IAHSA.  Can a similar situation work well in your community?