A happy mixture of generations and backgrounds

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Young and old live together in harmony
By Jerry Brownstein
The port city of Helsingborg in southern Sweden is the site of a radical experiment in multigenerational living. Its name is “Sällbo” which blends the Swedish words for companionship (sällskap) and living (bo). The name speaks to the project’s goals – to cure loneliness and promote social cohesion through productive interaction.The project sought to solve two problems at once. Their research showed that elderly people were feeling isolated from society. At the same time, the 2015 refugee crisis had brought in many immigrants who were struggling to integrate with Swedish society.

Sällbo was created for Swedish retirees to live together with young people - both Swedes and refugees. More than half of the residents are over 70, and the rest are aged 18-25. There are 51 apartments spread over four floors of a refurbished retirement home. Activity areas include a gym, yoga room, library, arts & crafts studio, and a large communal kitchen on every floor.

Residents of all ages praise the project: A retiree says, “It’s a real community and the mix of people works well.” A young Afghan refugee adds, “In my old apartment I didn’t know any of the neighbours. But here I know everyone, and it feels like home.” The director of Sällbo reflects on its aims: “We hope that people see that youngsters from other countries are not to be feared, and that you can have wonderful relationships between the young and the elderly. We want this to spread to society in general.”

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