Multigenerational Living Creates Warmth and Companionship

Creating a family-style home for young and old in Sweden.

Oct 30, 2020
Multigenerational Living Creates Warmth and Companionship Creating a family-style home for young and old in Sweden.

Extolled as the “new way to live,” a Swedish housing experiment is celebrating its first birthday this November. Here, a mix of retired and young residents combat loneliness by living together, and everyone is happy.

This special community is called SällBo, which is a blend of the Swedish words sällskap (companionship) and bo (living), according to h22. It is located in Helsingborg, a city on the coast in southern Sweden.

Residents in 31 of the 52 apartments are over 70, mostly widows and widowers. The rest of the residents are between 18 and 25 years old. Among the young crowd, half are singles who grew up in Sweden and the others are refugees without parents who recently arrived in the country.

Although they have private apartments, residents share common spaces designed for socializing together. These include a living room, library, exercise room, library, yoga room, crafts area, and kitchens. Outdoors, they have a barbecue area with outdoor seating plus flower and vegetable gardens.

Administered by Helsingborgshem, a non-profit housing company, the project was designed to address loneliness which is prevalent in Sweden. According to the BBC, half of all homes in Sweden have just one resident. Elderly people live alone, while young, independent Swedes also tend to live alone in apartments.

To provide a diverse mix of backgrounds, religion, age, and personalities, residents had to go through a careful selection process before they were admitted, according to The Guardian. They were also asked to sign a contract in which they pledged to socialize with other groups for at least two hours a week.

Both young and old are benefiting beautifully. A 92-year-old retiree is teaching English to the refugees, while another retired resident instructed a young Afghan resident how to drive. One older resident, who never spoke to his neighbors when living in his previous apartment, has since joined the gardening group, movie club, and has learned how to play the card game canasta.

A retired resident donated a piano, while another, a former sea captain, has taken up silversmithing, setting up a workshop. The residents are cooking communal dinners and helping each other with repairs as well as offering computer and technological advice.

One of the refugees commented that SällBo reminded him of his home country, where many generations in one family would live together. This setup has also been especially helpful during the pandemic, as the younger crowd is very happy to buy groceries and do errands for older residents who prefer to stay home.

Dragana Curovic, SällBo’s project manager, told The Guardian, “We hope that people see that youngsters from other countries are not to be feared, and that you can have totally normal relationships between youngsters, elderly, and other people.”

Curovic added, “We want that to spread to society in general, and increase the willingness to integrate. And it’s starting to happen.” The hope is to open more homes like this in Sweden. In fact, this living arrangement is so successful, delegates as well as academics from Canada, Germany, Italy, and South Korea have come to check it out. The Swedish SällBo fosters companionship and much more as it encourages tolerance, mutual respect, and integration.

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NICOLE NATHAN BEM, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.