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Aconchego Program

Author: Delphi Jarrett
Published Date: 15 October 2010

Aconchego Program is based on an intergenerational perspective. Seniors provide housing to university students in their homes and the students, while living with seniors and sharing the same home, help seniors to overcome loneliness and isolation, improving the welfare of seniors and their families.

Porto, a small city in the North of Portugal, is simultaneously both a very young and very old. Its university and higher education institutions attract about 70.000 students each year – a significant proportion of which come from the surroundings of the city or abroad. Every year, many students are in need of temporary accommodation during the academic year in order to attend the university. On the other hand, Porto has one of the largest ageing populations in Portugal. Many of these older people suffer from loneliness and isolation, especially in the downtown area of the city.

In order to tackle these challenges, two institutions - Porto Social Foundation and Academic Federation of Porto – joined each other in 2004 to set up Aconchego Program, a housing programme which matches older people who live on their own, and students who are in need of accommodation. Students and the older people are interviewed by the both organizations at the beginning of the matching process - key elements such as the expectations, interests and past history of both parties are assessed. Location and house size are also taken into account in the matching process. Monitoring is an important part of the partnership - a technical and experienced team conducting regular home visits and telephone calls.

From being an unpopular and unusual idea at its inception, the Aconchego Program has gained its own dynamic. As more and more countries run similar models in cities all over the world, matching students and older people has become a more accepted way to combat isolation of ageing populations and a lack of accommodation for students. Between 2004 and 2008, the demand came mainly from students but since 2008 the demand from seniors increased significantly. The reversal of the group's demand might be related with the relational nature of the program, where trust and security are key elements. The programme also now attracts more middle and upper class old people, and lower class students for whom close relationships and ties of affection can be places of safety.

The Aconchego Program has already been replicated in Lisbon and in Coimbra.