Tag: youth

Home is Where the Heart is: Highlighting HomeShare

By Mallory Lowes, Social Connectedness Fellow 2019

Learn about the ever-evolving concept of HomeShare

Imagine you had the opportunity to gain valuable life skills, develop meaningful friendships and pay a reduced amount for quality accommodation – all while benefiting the greater community. Would you pursue it?

Let me introduce you to HomeShare, the ever-evolving concept of matching young adults or post-secondary students with older adults in their respective communities to live with one another. The living situation is a direct exchange of services: the young adult or student pays a reduced rental fee, in turn for the commitment of a few volunteer hours to assist the older homeowner with basic daily tasks. For instance, light cleaning, yard work, running errands or cooking. An older homeowner is able to receive reliable help, while a student is able to maintain a flexible schedule and lower their monthly expenses.

HomeShare is not necessarily a new initiative. There have been programs established in Canada for over 20 years, and it exists in 16 different countries across the world, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Korea. Although a prevalent concept, awareness, opportunities and participation among Canadians is sparse. HomeShare programs are more dominant in Eastern Canada, and the most populous city in the country, Toronto, is just introducing a HomeShare pilot project in September 2019.

Why should HomeShare become more widespread, you ask? Beyond alleviating rising housing costs for students and encouraging the safe practice of daily tasks for older adults and seniors, HomeSharing addresses one of the most prominent, pervasive health problems existent today: social isolation. [1]

Social isolation can lead to a variety of mental and physical health issues, such as depression, malnutrition, decreased immunity, anxiety and fatigue, among others. [2] Seniors have an enhanced risk of becoming socially isolated, which is not entirely shocking. Living alone, dealing with health and mobility issues, experiencing the loss of loved ones and struggling financially are all key contributors to the manifestation of social isolation. [3] Among older Canadians, those who are immigrants, those who identify as an ethnic minority group and those who are low-income are especially at risk of experiencing social isolation as a result of language barriers, lack of literacy and discrimination. [4] Furthermore, the population of people aged 65+ is currently the most rapidly growing population group in Canada, outnumbering the age group of 0-14 for the first time in history. [5]  Therefore, it is crucial that the needs of older adults are being addressed, in order to attend to the wellbeing of the fastest growing portion of the Canadian population.

Action is being taken through various initiatives both nationally and internationally to incorporate the needs of older Canadians into programming and policy. Conveniently, HomeSharing can be used as a tool to foster many of these initiatives. For instance, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Age-Friendly Cities Project highlights the need for cities to support older people to “age actively,” meaning living in security, enjoying good health and continuing to participate fully in society.

In addition, the National Seniors Strategy consists of four main pillars in supporting older Canadians: 1) Independent, productive and engaged citizens; 2) Healthy and active living; 3) Care closer to home; and 4) Support for caregivers. HomeSharing has the capacity to practice the WHO’s “active aging” and the four pillars of the National Seniors Strategy through creating a secure, independent, healthy and engaged environment, and through the live-in presence of not only an assistive roommate, but a potential friend.

However, HomeShare is not purely socially beneficial for the older homeowners. Youth aged 16-24 are reported to be the loneliest age group of all. [6] Thus, HomeSharing is not solely attending to the need for social connection among older adults, but to younger adults as well. The intergenerational, daily interaction is exactly what the doctor may have ordered for both age groups.

Despite the bountiful benefits, it is impossible for any program to be perfect. There lies the possibility of being matched with an individual who has severely different interests or a conflicting personality. There also lies the chance that the volunteer aspect could be abused – whether the home-seeker does not fulfill their designated duties, or the homeowner expects too much of the home-seeker. Thankfully, HomeShare is facilitated by experienced social workers and other professionals who are there to ensure that everything is going smoothly, and to solve any uncertainties.

The beauty of this model is that it has the opportunity to be expanded further, beyond the student-senior relationship. Using the development techniques of HomeShare, initiatives could be created to involve the matching of people from all walks of life, not necessarily from particular age groups. For example, recent empty-nester parents tend to have extra space in their homes. Could HomeSharing not be a possibility for them as well?

In order for this socially connected, community-based model to grow, it requires participants and changemakers who are welcome to new possibilities. I encourage you to consider how the concept of HomeShare can be creatively integrated into your own community – either through the current program, or through new initiatives. To check out what is already being done, please head to  https://www.homesharecanada.org/ to learn more.

[1] HM Government. A Connected Society: A Strategy for Tackling Loneliness – Laying the Foundations for Change. London, UK: Crown, 2018. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/ file/750909/6.4882_DCMS_Loneliness_Strategy_web_Update.pdf

[2] Keefe, Janice, Melissa Andrew, Pamela Fancey, and Madelyn Hall. A Profile of Social Isolation in Canada. Report. Department of Family Studies and Gerontology, Mount Saint Vincent University. Halifax, NS: Centre on Aging Nova Scotia, 2006. 1-35. https://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2006/keefe_social_isolation_final_report_may_2006.pdf.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sibley, Jessica, Heather Thompson, and Joey Edwardh. Seniors: Loneliness and Social Isolation. Report. Community Development Halton. Burlington, ON: Community Development Halton, 2016. 1-24. https://cdhalton.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Seniors-Loneliness-and-Social-Isolation.pdf

[5] Ibid.

[6]Hammond, Claudia. “The Anatomy of Loneliness – Who Feels Lonely? The Results of the World’s Largest Loneliness Study.” BBC Radio 4. 2018. Accessed July 23, 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2yzhfv4DvqVp5nZyxBD8G23/who-feels-lonely-the-results-of-the-world-s-largest-loneliness-study

The Narrative of an Unemployed Graduate in South Africa

By Yolanda Sankobe, Social Connectedness Fellow 2019

One month ago, South Africa celebrated Youth Day, an event that commemorates the 1976 Soweto Youth uprising for better education. However, South Africa is still plagued by a phenomenon of unemployment that disproportionately affects its youth. 

Unemployment is a global phenomenon that plagues both developed and developing countries, with the youth population accounting for a large percentage of the world’s unemployment rate. South Africa has proven to be one of the countries worst affected by unemployment, even in contrast to other countries with high unemployment rates such as Nigeria, Brazil and Greece. Soaring to 27.6%, unemployment was declared a “national crisis” by the President of South Africa in May 2019. Youth constitute 55.2% of the 6.2 million South Africans who are actively seeking jobs. Despite a growing graduate labour force, this situation shows no sign of abating and efforts to stem the tide remain ineffective.     

April 1994 heralded the birth of the new South Africa as communities basked in and celebrated the promise of a new beginning and a better life for all. A better life for all under a democratic order meant economic transformation and growth for everyone. In that same year, South Africa reclaimed its rightful place in the global economy, enthusiastic yet heavy laden with the task of poverty alleviation, inequality reduction, and ensuring investment growth.

The first economic policy adopted by the government in 1994 was the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), which was unsuccessful due to its overly ambitious approach to tackling poverty and inequality with little regard to fiscal constraints. The next two policies, Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) in 1996 and Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA) in 2006, also failed to have the anticipated impact, resulting instead in fluctuating unemployment rates. Having observed the structural change in the labour force and demand for high-skilled workers [1], the Government’s solution to unemployment was to invest in education. In a heartbeat, 2010 saw the introduction of the New Growth Path (NGP). More than 20% of the National Budget was injected into education, resulting in The Republic becoming one of the highest spending governments on education in the world, despite having the lowest graduate labour force due to high dropout rates [2]. 

The year is 2015 and South Africa celebrates her 21st birthday. Over two decades into democracy, it is the world’s most unequal country, with more than half of the nation living below the already low poverty line. The apartheid legacy is still reflected in the education system. A legal entity NSFAS (Nation Student Financial Aid Scheme), which was established with the intent to grant the economically disenfranchised students access to higher education, has successfully reached far and wide. However, its focus has been on reaching more students rather than fully funding them. This has resulted in high dropout rates because of inadequate funds and the high cost of studies. In October 2015,, ‘born frees’ (born after 1994) from all walks of life united for #feesmustfall, a student-led protest, and took to the streets to fight for free education.

“United we stand, divided we fall.”

Being an unemployed graduate can be very lonely and an unavoidable trigger to one’s mental health. For the average South African, it is a return home to the poverty, people and  places you have long outgrown. It has the power to propel negative thoughts and emotions: fear that you might not make it, regret that you wasted time and money, and anger that your family is still not progressing economically. After having been to university -a place where the dream of economic freedom seems tangible- unemployment feels like a personal attack on one’s identity and sense of belonging. In the midst of that detachment lies a genuine longing for connectedness, for community and sometimes, relatability. 

South Africa are now 25 years into democracy and the growth of the graduate labour force is a sign that the youth are proactive, but unemployment policies are still not doing enough to fill in the gaps. This calls for the country to delve deeper and address the issue of unemployment at both preventative and curative levels [3] as opposed to just injecting money into education. At the preventative level, there needs to be a stronger collaboration between The Department of Basic Education, Universities/Tertiary institutions and employers to solve the problem of discrepancy between required skills and skills acquired by graduates [4]. The NYDA’s (National Youth Development Agency) Youth Advisory Centres and Graduate Development Programme, where young people receive career guidance and graduates have their skilled enhanced, are a great start and should have wider reach. The International Growth Advisory Panel recommended a youth employment subsidy for South Africa in 2011. Implementing this as a curative strategy to decrease the graduate unemployment rate could work to boost the economy [5]. 

In the meantime, volunteering is known to foster soft skills and develop work ethic. There are some incredible organizations such as City Year and Harambee that give one the opportunity to grow professionally and personally through mentorship and tutoring. 

The South African youth have always been the heartbeat of the country. They led the fight and conquered an oppressive apartheid regime – what is unemployment therefore, to stand in their way? A luta continua!  

“Together we stand.” 

[1] Lorainne Ferrereira and Riaan Rossouw, “South Africa’s Economic Policies On Unemployment: A Historical Analysis of Two Decades of Transition”, Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences (October 2016): 807-832. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317143804_South_Africa’s_economic_policies_ on_unemployment_A_historical_analysis_of_two_decades_of_transition

[2] Martine Visser, Michael Cosser, Migonone Brier and Moeketsi, “Student retention & graduate destination: higher education and labour market access and success”, (Cape Town: HSRC Press,2010): 39-144. https://www.hsrcpress.ac.za/product.php?productid=2272&cat=1&page=4

[3] Martin Godfrey, “Youth Unemployment Policy in Developing and Transition Countries- Prevention as well as Cure”, Social Protection Discussion Paper Series,320, no.1 (2003). https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f228/e8e46f008518560baf1862b1d628bb253979.pdf

[4] ]Precious Mncayi, “An Analysis of the Perceptions of Graduate Unemployment Among Graduates from A South African University”, Internal Journal of Social Sciences and Humanity Studies 8, no.1 (2016). http://www.sobiad.org/ejournals/journal_ijss/arhieves/IJSS2016_1/Paper49_Mncayi.pdf

[5] Lorriaine Greyling, “Graduate unemployment in South Africa: Perspectives from the banking sector”, SA Journal of Human Resource Management (March 2015). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329070821_Graduate_unemployment_in_South_Africas banking_Sector