Age Is Just a Number - Inter-generational Living Project in New Taipei
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
#SDG3 - Good Health and Well-being
#SDG10 - Reduced Inequalities
#SDG11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
◆Implementation Period: 2017 Summer - Present
◆Project Website: https://www.9floorspace.com/sanxia
In light of the growing ageing population, New Taipei City government provided a brand new housing model called “the Inter-generational Living Project”, inviting the young adults and the seniors cohabiting and helping each other to build precious bridges between the generations.
In recent years, social and demographic changes have come to light. On one hand, roughly 990,000 citizens in Taipei metropolitan area lived in rented dwellings, while most of them are students and fresh graduates who do not have steady income to pay the rent. On the other hand, the elderly accounts for 13.3% of the Taiwan’s population. Among these seniors, their children often migrate to other parts of the country for work, leaving them behind experiencing isolation and loneliness.
The two potential social problems lead to the birth of the Inter-generational Living Project. This creative solution creates a link of relationships and interactions among different ages of citizens, narrowing the gap between generations. The project provides not only support and companionship for older people, but fantastic life and work experience for students and postgraduates.
The Inter-generational Living Project is constructed in three phases, as the three-day inter-generational living camp served as the main part of the first phase, taking place in the social housing near National Taipei University in 2017 July. The unprecedented camp will include activities such as ice-breaking games, collaborative cooking and outdoor cultural experiencing among seniors aged over 60 and adults under 40.
“We are overwhelmed by the numbers of applicants willing to participate in this camp.” said Mr. Hong-Dian Liu, the former Commissioner of New Taipei Urban and Rural Development Department, “We received over 400 applications contending for only 30 spots. During the telephone interview, many of them embraced this concept and look forward to the camp.”
The second phase for the Inter-generational Living Project was implemented in 2017 November, a long stay in a six-month period. Workshops on how different age groups can benefit from living together and lessons on healthy diet and nutrition will be provided during the second phase,” said Mr. Hong-Dian Liu. “In the long-term, we anticipate a positive impact on long-term care and housing issues in the foreseeable future.”
In fact, the Inter-generational Living Project followed the example of the German Geku-Haus, a co-living apartment for young artists and versatile seniors. The old people sometimes act as mentors, providing useful advice and life-long experience to the students on their career paths. Meanwhile, the elderly can gain a sense of self-worth by helping these young adults.
The Netherlands has also enjoyed a similar portfolio in a nursing home called the Residential and Care Center Humanitas. Realizing the severe shortage of student housing and the growing cost of elderly care, the Humanitas surprisingly turned their center into a student dormitory. In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, students are able to stay in vacant rooms for free. “The conversation here is not only about death, sickness and old age, but also about youth, parties and girlfriends.” the CEO of the Humanitas Gea Sijpkes said.
Examples of inter-generational living have also existed in our neighborhood Japan. Many non-profit organizations have implemented home sharing programs at a community-based approach, surveying the college students’ living habit to match their compatible elderly roommates. However, for Japanese, staying in a friend’s house is not common, not to mention living with a stranger for years. Consequently, some seniors might be wary of the young newcomers, while others may encounter disagreement from their parents.
An inter-generational approach to housing may be a success to western countries, but New Taipei should also take the cultural context into consideration if the program expands nationwide. Our attitude and values towards the seniors and cohabiting with all ages of roommates should me more open-minded, as the house planning and design should be more elderly-friendly.
Understanding that this project is not the only measure to resolve housing issues is also important to the city government. Other measures should also be considered for young adults to have more access to affordable housing. Likewise, seniors should also have more options to lead a healthy and better quality of elderly life.