Will retirement homes no longer be for retirement? See how it’s working in Helsinki
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IN HELSINKI, FINLAND, RETIREMENT HOMES are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials. “It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,” explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in “A Home That Fits,” a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties.
In a culture where young adults leave home at 18, Finnish millennials are finding it increasingly difficult to become independent. But thanks to “A Home That Fits,” one of the many projects helping to battle homelessness, Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community.
It’s a win-win situation for all involved. Millennials have affordable housing and the city of Helsinki decreases their population of homeless youth, but an unintended benefit is the positive impact this program has on the mental health of the senior citizens involved. Anxiety, depression, and even suicide increases among seniors living in retirement facilities. By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with “A Home That Fits” have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.