Pilot project gives young professionals free apartments in old age homes in exchange for spending time with residents
Young professionals in Hangzhou can spend 20 hours a month with the elderly in exchange for a free place to stay
The project allows elderly people stuck in the nursing home to spend more time with young people through courses and activities
Many public nursing homes across China are plagued with long waiting lists, and could not adopt this model to commit a minimum of 20 hours of their time to their elderly neighbors every month.
Wang Kai, director of social work at Sunshine Home, who heads the project, said it allows young people to exchange their spare hours for rent at the nursing home. The aim is to provide more services to the old people at the nursing home.
Volunteers can choose to devote their time to a range of services including simple companionship, teaching courses for the elderly such as how to use smart phones, and assistance during special events such as festival celebrations.
“Allowing these young people to live in some of our vacant rooms can not only bring more vitality to the nursing home, but also build up a support network here,” Wang told the Global Times.
Inspired by Europe
Wang said the project, initially proposed by Binjiang district’s Communist Youth League Committee and Civil Affairs Bureau, took its inspiration from similar projects in some European countries.
Countries like the Netherlands and Denmark have all rolled out similar projects in recent years.
Binjiang district, however, adapted it for its own purposes to boost social interaction among over 600 elderly people in the nursing home, who often have only other old people to talk to.
In addition, the project can help alleviate rental pressure on young people in Hangzhou. A survey by the Economic Observer this August shows that the average rent of Hangzhou ranks fourth in China, right after Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai, at 55.33 yuan ($8) per square-meter each month. This means a 30-square-meter space in Hangzhou would cost 1,500 yuan on average.
Last December, the project launched its first trial. During the trial, companies in Binjiang district were asked to recommend candidates for the project. This year, application is open for all youth working in Binjiang district, as long as they have no property in Hangzhou, hold a bachelor’s degree or above, and are within seven years of graduation.
“These requirements will ensure that they can balance work and service at the nursing home,” Wang explained.
Two people share a 30-square-meter studio apartment, which features a bathroom, two single beds, desks and a large balcony. “The room faces the south and has all the facilities we need. It’s much better than my previous studio room,” Yang said.
Rent is waived. The young residents only have to pay 300 yuan for utilities.
All the participants in the nursing home project said they’re happy to devote some of their hours to the elderly.
Yang, who graduated with a degree in