There is no way to sugarcoat it. While London is a fantastic city, full of life, promise and opportunity… the rent is definitely on the expensive side!
That is why Alexandra Knox, a 27-year-old Masters student, decided to forgo student digs and housemates in favour of a less conventional dwelling. She lives with 95-year-old Florence Smith near her university in south-west London.
The two are now best friends. Like every housemate pairing, they split chores, chill out in front of the telly, and often eat together.
Meet the housemates with the 68 year age gap. Florence (95) met her housemate Alexandra (27) through a scheme to tackle loneliness. pic.twitter.com/Ew8xS0iOlt
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) December 24, 2017
Knox pays just GBP199 (US$274) per month compared to the average price of around GBP600 (US$830). Simply Business even stated the highest average rental prices in London are in the south-west, where Knox and Smith live.
It all began when Smith signed up on Homeshare, a house sharing charity. But that was 10 years ago and she was only recently matched with Knox.
“I was really nervous when we first met but we just hit it off,” Knox told The Daily Mail Online. “Flo is funny and really lovely to talk to and we’ve become good friends.”
“We sit down and watch The Chase on TV together, we’ll sit down for a chat over a cup of tea, we’ll do some of the cleaning, it’s no different to living with friends as uni students. And she seems to go out more than I do! If we have to worry about either of us having a late night, it’s probably her.”
The charity matches elderly people who are living alone and miss having company at home with young people looking for a place to live.
"The companionship is the most important thing as far as I'm concerned", Florence, 95, talking about opening her home to Alex, 27 @BBCr4today listen to the full interview https://t.co/gf7oOvIWST 42.18 @LBFEW @BigLotteryFund @age_uk #endloneliness pic.twitter.com/cYaHhRD42n
— Homeshare UK (@Homeshare_UK) January 6, 2018
“Some people might feel a bit concerned about having a younger person living in their home, but Alexandra is lovely,” said Smith.
“I would call her a close friend. We talk about everything, just as I would with my other friends.”
Smith was in the RAF during World War II. She lived in her south-west London home with her husband Dan until he passed away around 20 years ago. She has lived in the home now for more than 50 years.
After retiring aged 70, she started to feel the sting of loneliness. Her kin live far away from her and so she was often totally alone.
“Sharing your home is a marvellous idea. Loneliness is horrible. You can get bored to tears being by yourself. Having someone else in the home makes a big difference. You don’t have to worry about falling over or hurting yourself,” Smith told The Daily Mail Online.
“More importantly it’s lovely to have somebody to talk to during the day. Even if we just see each other in the mornings for 15 minutes at breakfast, it’s some conversation during the day.
“There’s always a bit of give and take living with another person, but Alexandra and I have managed very well.”
"Old people are living longer & lonelier lives, young people struggle to afford #housing: two of the greatest social trends of our time" #r4today #bbcnews, many ways of bringing people together – #HomeShare is doing just that https://t.co/gf7oOvrluj 42.18 @LBFEW @BigLotteryFund
— Homeshare UK (@Homeshare_UK) January 6, 2018
With an aging population, more and more elderly people are finding themselves alone, and with increasing rent prices, more and more students are struggling to afford to live in desirable places.
Schemes such as this one provide an opportunity for both parties and as an added bonus, have also caused beautiful friendships to form. It is no doubt the pair are not alone. The charity has matched over 300 young and elderly people in the United Kingdom.
And it’s not just in the UK. Similar schemes are going on all over the world. In most student towns and cities, in most countries, you are likely to find a similar programme.
“It’s lovely to have someone putting their key in the door in the evening and there to help out with some of the more difficult chores,” Smith said.
Knox explained when she first decided to move to London and live with an older person she felt “terrified” but it didn’t take long for her to adjust.
“People sometimes look slightly strangely at you when you first explain you live with someone who is 95 and not a relative, but it’s like being with an old family friend,” she said.
“It gives me somewhere really homely to come back to in the evening, which is great. Rent in London is also really high, but living with Flo makes being here more affordable,” said Knox.
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