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Community group partners with CBU to pair seniors with students looking for housing

Cape Breton University is partnering with a local organization on a program to pair students looking for housing with seniors who have a spare room. (Matthew Moore/CBC - image credit)
Cape Breton University is partnering with a local organization on a program to pair students looking for housing with seniors who have a spare room. (Matthew Moore/CBC - image credit)

A community group called Town House is partnering with Cape Breton University's social work department to pair students looking for a safe and affordable place to live with seniors who have room to spare.

The hope is that the program can benefit both students and seniors alike, says Patti McDonald, the executive director of Town House, a Glace Bay organization that aims to help marginalized people in the community.

Many seniors, she said, live alone in large homes that can be difficult to heat and maintain. Students, meanwhile, can often struggle finding affordable housing near school.

McDonald said the idea is that students and seniors will apply to be part of the program. Once matched, the student will pay an estimated $750 a month for the accommodations, but also be expected to help out around the house.

"We're going to really vet both groups … and make sure they're a good fit and a safe place to be for both, and then we're going to start building some community around that," she said.

Cynthia Conley, the director of the bachelor of social work program at CBU, says her department is going to support the program by studying the impact on those participating.

This would include looking at how home sharing is affecting feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety, and financial stability for the seniors participating, and assessing how students feel about helping around the home and being part of the program.

"It's well documented in the research … that seniors, as they age in place in their own homes, tend to experience a sense of isolation, and that sense of isolation … impacts both mental health outcomes and physical health outcomes," said Conley.

100 Women Who Care, which supports non-profit and charitable organizations in Cape Breton, has donated $10,000 to help establish the program. A Mitacs grant has been awarded to help fund the school's research.

Both Conley and McDonald say the plan is to pair 12 students with 12 seniors. The hope is that the program will be up and running this spring.

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