They left the family home with the hope of breaking the loneliness that had burdened them for months or years. In Blacé, in the Rhône, around twenty retirees made the surprising choice of moving into a shared flat for the elderly.
We rent apartments with one or two bedrooms, a private outdoor area, a bathroom with PMR standard and a kitchen. “We welcome singles or couples”, says Blandine de Traverse who co-founded the facility. They can bring their own furniture and imagine a personal decoration. “I am at home as a tenant. “ The package starts at € 950.
When they arrive, “I’m often depressed”
In the morning, at coffee time, the elderly invite each other into their homes. Believing that they are old friends who have known each other forever. Yet the Maison de Blandine only opened in January 2021. Monique, an 86-year-old roommate, talks happily about the holidays “cards on the terrace”, “The joy of being together”. The woman claims to have it “Found confidence in life” in this house.
This place, which wants to be different from nursing homes or assisted reception facilities, allows them to forge social bonds and find a second youth. “When I interview them, they are often depressed, they suffer from loneliness”, argues Blandine de Traverse. Here they are never alone.
Voluntary workshops and initiations
During the day they can participate in two workshops. “There is no obligation”, I would like to remind the liberal nurse that she came up with the idea for this house. Four times a week, before lunch, they are invited to cook together to prepare a meal. “Friday was the veal blanquette! “ One of the inhabitants is in charge of the workshop and takes care of writing the shopping lists. A facilitator takes care of picking them up at the supermarket.
Those with green fingers gather in the garden to take care of the vegetable garden. The elders planted aromatic herbs, tomatoes, some strawberries and courgettes there. La Maison de Blandine also brings external collaborators for initiation into sculpture, sophrology or gentle gymnastics. The program evolves according to his wishes, like when Jean-Jacques wanted to exhibit his photographs and teach some techniques to his roommates.
Free to isolate yourself or not
Those who are transported can of course leave and return as they see fit. Some go off to be beautiful in the Blacé hairdresser and others go for walks in the surrounding area. Families who come to visit them can stay overnight in the occupants’ quarters.
When evening arrives, the 25 seniors return to their accommodation or stroll through the common library, sit in the collective dining room or extend the moment by sharing an aperitif. When the sun goes down, the coordinator and the animator leave the house. But roommates of another style come into action and watch.
The “young” stand guard at night
In fact, at the Casa di Blandine there are not only pensioners. There is also ” young “, as Blandine de Traverse calls them. They can be students or workers and also reside in this facility. “They live in studios or small apartments. The rent is around € 350 per month and they can get APL. “ At night, they provide on-call service which is paid. If an elderly person falls or experiences a moment of anxiety, he must intervene and notify the emergency services if necessary. There is no real caretaker here, no doctor on call.
These young people are not just there to ensure that the night is clear for everyone. They are also there to share and participate in initiations and troop life. They too have proposed planting mushrooms in the common garden.
The future Maison de Blandine to come
A second house of this type will be built in November 2022 in Limonest, 15 km north-west of Lyon (Rhône). “There will be 26 apartments for singles or couples. We will have four young people. The house will be 250 m2 “, says Blandine de Traverse. Seven more homes will be created in 2023. “Our goal is to open 10 per year. “
These structures will all be built “Within 400 meters” of a city center or a historic center such as that of Blacé. “It is our priority”says the manager. The roommates must be able to integrate into local life by having the opportunity to frequent the shops or activities offered by the associations. Blandine de Traverse is also attentive to the existing medical offer “because we work with private practice nurses, physiotherapists …”
Who can integrate colocation?
To integrate these places, young people must “must be vaccinated against Covid to protect the inhabitants”. On the other hand, there is no age limit, neither for one nor for the other. Currently, in Blacé, the small young man of the band has celebrated his 65th birthday and the two older ones have celebrated his 94th birthday. “We can accompany them to the end. “ Blandine de Traverse also accepted a 50-year-old with whom she was confronted “an accident of life” causing it “A physical disability and intellectual slowness”.
Almost all seniors are accepted. Alzheimer’s patients can only integrate the home if they settle down with their wife or husband. “We do not want to separate the couple and we want to replace the spouse. “ Another limitation of the structure: the reception of people suffering from a neurodegenerative disease at the end stage.
“We managed to build a family”
As in life, painful moments punctuate the daily life of these gray-haired roommates. Angèle, one of the residents, died in her apartment. “We have lost a family member”, reacts Blandine de Traverse. And four “young people” left in September 2021 after nine months of sharing. They had forged strong ties with retirees.
She is saddened by this disappearance but delighted to have won the bet of having helped them to create a solidarity group. A challenge taken up after the death of one of her patients. “It was July. He had just been entrusted with curatorship and could no longer go to the restaurant every lunchtime when that was how he maintained a social bond. “ With a smile, he concludes: “We managed to build a family. “