Finland addresses youth housing crisis and senior isolation by inviting Millennials to live in retirement homes

In Finland, it’s customary for young people to head out on their own at the age of eighteen.  But these days, affordable housing options—especially for those just starting out—are few and far between, leaving many under 25 “homeless.”

But thanks to a creative and forward-thinking move by the Helsinki city council, a few lucky young adults will get their shot at a comfortable inexpensive apartment—something the council hopes will benefit their neighbors as much as it benefits the renter.

In Helsinki, one retirement and nursing community has opened up several units for rent to those 25 or younger.  These small studio apartments run about 250 euros ($289.29) per month—compared to 600 euros ($694.28) per month for similar lodgings in the area.

In exchange for affordable rent, renters agree to spend three to five hours each week socializing with their neighbors, senior residents in the care community.  The community still maintains a trained staff to care for senior residents’ specific health and lifestyle needs, so renters aren’t expected to have any particular knowledge or experience in the care field. Their job is strictly to listen, entertain, help out, and just generally be good friends and neighbors.

Helsinki’s city council hopes that this will not only ease the transition into independent adult life for young people, but also bridge the gap that often exists between youth and seniors.

So far, the program already shows a lot of promise.  Both seniors and renters say they enjoy the arrangement, finding more in common with each other than they may have thought possible.  One renter says he loves the friendly welcoming environment, something that isn’t usually the case in typical neighborhoods in Finland.  In turn, his senior neighbor describes him as being a source of light in her daily life.

With the successful trial run of this program, Finland hopes it will spread to neighboring towns and cities and provide an excellent example to countries across the world.