The president of the association Vivre avec, psychogerontologist and ex-professor emeritus at the University of Bordeaux, campaigns for intergenerational cohabitation.
It was a chief doctor who sent Jean Bouisson authoritatively to the geriatric ward at the start of his career, in the 1970s. “A real dying place, where I met a team in distress, never visited by doctors.” This founding experience pushed him to specialize, to become a psychogerontologist. “I had acquired the certainty that there was in our approach to the elderly a barrier linked to the social representations that we had of old age.” Have things changed today? Jean Bouisson is not sure, tired that we do not want to show that the elderly who “Age well, as they say. Those who are in good shape, who obey their doctor wisely, who do not suffer from isolation ”.
However, he insists, the loneliness of the over 65s is taking its toll. In 2006, thanks to one of his students, he discovered intergenerational cohabitation, a device that could fight against this silent scourge. The Bordeaux association Vivre avec offers to connect students and seniors ready to share their accommodation. At the time, the project was in its infancy. Some pairs have been created but are struggling to last. Jean Bouisson listens to the difficulties of the team. “I understood that without a guardrail, it couldn’t work. Because intergenerational is not easy! We need professionals to provide support. ” After a month of living together, each student-senior pair agrees on a charter. This document organizes daily life: the number of meals taken together, laundry, cleaning … Since the establishment of this system, the association, of which Jean Bouisson has become president, has grown in importance. Fifty pairs are now formed in Bordeaux.
“The only thing we require is very simple: it is presence, to be there for each other. From there, the link is quickly created. ” For the elderly, cohabitation is sometimes enough to change their daily lives, to feel reassured, to take more care of themselves and their food. For the student, knowing that he is useful and expected gives confidence. Especially since the association receives many young foreigners without any family ties in France. “I became aware of the points in common between these two generations who are 50 years apart: young people as seniors are isolated, worry about their future and need to feel recognized. They have lots of things to say to each other! ”
Many pairs have gone through successive confinements together. The pandemic, far from having undermined intergenerational housing, has confirmed its merits. Requests are pouring in. “It is not a question of installing people next to each other, as social landlords often do. It is an intergenerational experience, that is to say that two people share their experiences, in a desire to meet. This dialogue is fundamental. Without a meeting between the generations, there is no longer a possible society. “
Proximity, food, aid, health… After our forums on solidarity in February, and basic income in June, Release continues its partnership with the association Solidarity solutions through a series of reports, portraits and forums. To find here.
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