News of 18-year-old Dylan du Plessis of Bela-Bela in Limpopo asking his great-grandmother, Emil, to accompany him to his Matric farewell at the local high school, has warmed hearts across the country. With boys outnumbering girls in town, Dylan decided to make an alternate plan to find a partner for his big night. His great-gran basically helped raise him and they have an extremely close bond, so they’re comfortable in each other’s company and it’s a relationship that’s enriched both of their lives.
Very few of us have great-grandmothers and even fewer live close by, but relationships between people who are two or three generations apart, are good for everyone.
Since 2012, a Dutch scheme has placed students and the elderly in shared accommodation, with great success. Students don’t pay rent, in return for spending at least 30 hours per month performing duties of “good neighbourliness”. This includes picking up or dropping off laundry, running errands, teaching elderly residents new skills like how to use email and social media, and make video calls. Some have even taught their senior housemates to do graffiti! The students are also obliged to take turns at cooking dinner.
It’s worked a charm. Instead of living in a bubble of like-minded peers of similar ages, both younger and older generations are exposed to people who’ve had very different life experiences to their own, and it’s been good for everyone to live together under the same roof.
The benefits of bringing young and old together, in the same home or neighbourhood, can be divided into three categories:
1 Youngsters can learn about history and tradition, be taught recipes or cooking and gardening skills that aren’t captured in books or online. Children can experience calm and structure, and get more attention than would perhaps have been the case if both parents work. They can learn about different life stages and become aware of ageing.
2 Older people feel valued and appreciated, and their confidence increases. They feel mentally and physically more energetic, their overall well-being improves and they stand a good chance of living longer.
3 The community benefits because we connect socially and build relationships without fear. We learn to value and respect each other, to disagree while remaining tolerant and understanding, and to do away with stereotypes about age, gender and culture because there are so many different ways of looking at life that they all enrich one another.
This way of life is being made possible by property developers with foresight and vision in terms of the way we’ll live tomorrow. In the PE suburb of Westbrook, the Amdec Group is building two- and three-bedroomed homes that cater for extended families, and an Evergreen Lifestyle retirement village forms part of the future development of the estate. So whether you want to bring together different generations under one roof, or have them live independently, but in the same neighbourhood, at Westbrook the choice is yours.
Come and see the life that you and all the generations of your family could enjoy. We’d love to show you around. Please contact Malisa Hamilton on 041 001 0091, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at The Ridge, Summerville Avenue, Morningside, Port Elizabeth.