Keeping seniors in their homes longer and avoiding a drain on social services.

Allowing students to find affordable accommodation, preventing them from spending the rest of their adult lives paying off student loans.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a viable solution for both social issues?

There is.

It’s called co-generational housing programs where a college-age student rents a spare bedroom or downstairs basement from a senior who is living alone.

It first caught on at McMaster University in Hamilton and has since extended to nearby Toronto where they’re using this model as a tool for not only college kids, but the working poor.

Obviously, an extensive screening process is required complete with a criminal background check and thorough screening of all references.

But, like programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, perfect matches can be found based on the interests of both tenant and landlord.

A list of dos and don’ts need to be established — similar to what’s required to coach youth sports. The billet, for example, should not be allowed to request money or discuss personal finances. The billet must be required to maintain a certain academic standard to qualify for the program.

They don’t even need to spend that much time together. For the senior, it’s a piece of mind knowing another adult is in the home if in the event of a night-time emergency.

There are also tons of success stories. Most seniors love having young people around. Loneliness, studies show, is a silent killer.

Younger people enjoy having someone to chat with at the end of a long day and are amazed by the knowledge and experience seniors often have.

Many seniors, who don’t want to leave their own homes, have tons of living space that they don’t use.

The success stories are endless. Colleges and universities which haven’t started one yet, need to soon.

James Miller is managing editor of The Kelowna Daily Courier.

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