Seniors and students happy together

By Maria Church

Whether on a tight student budget or simply tired of cleaning up after messy roommates, some Calgary students are finding that living with a senior in the Calgary Homeshare Program is the perfect fit for heart, health and pocketbook.

The Calgary Homeshare program — a one-year-old pilot project run by Sandra Rhead for the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society ­– matches up seniors age 65 and older with adult students willing to trade basic housework for discounted rent.

“The students coming into the program, if they can commit to a lifestyle where studies are important to them and they are not looking to have a party lifestyle, the program works really well for them,” said Rhead.

But the seniors are far from losing out in this deal. Rhead explains that feedback from the participating seniors has been all positive. Many say they enjoy the free time that before was spent doing housework.

Rhead said the Calgary Homeshare Program is also contributing to a historical tradition of elders passing down knowledge to youth.

“We don’t give our seniors enough credit because they are passing on a lot of problem-solving skills to the students,” she said. “Some of the students have really been impressed by the outlook of the seniors and how they manage themselves or how they put their priorities in life.”

Brandon Meyers, a recent student graduate two weeks into the Homeshare program, said he already appreciates the company of his new roommate.

“For me it was a great choice. All the other $400 per month options were with other dudes my age, but they are a lot messier than I am,” he said. “I have been on my own for a while and I can’t even think about living with some of my friends.”

He described his senior roommate as “a sweet lady.”

“I think it is really valuable for people my age to get a life perspective from somebody who is a senior because there is so much for us to learn as well as seniors to learn from us,” he said. “She eats a lot healthier than me so that will be helpful as well.”

For new student Carlene Bulas the program was exactly what she was looking for this fall.

“Being from Athabasca, a small town, I have never lived in the city so I don’t know anybody in Calgary. It is kind of nice that it is safe and you know what you are getting into,” she said.

To be accepted into the program Bulas says she filled out a detailed application which included a police check and four references.

After her acceptance the next step for Bulas was touring the city with Rhead to scout out potential homes and talk with seniors interested in rooming with her. “They were all really welcoming, they all wanted to have me!” she said.

Bulas says she has now picked out a home and is looking forward to moving in before school starts this fall.

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