‘It’s like family’:Swedish housing experiment designed to cure loneliness

A radical new scheme offers homes to different ages and backgrounds – and insists that they (safely) mingle

Erik Ahlsten is unequivocal. “This is the best accommodation I’ve ever had” His friend and neighbour Manfred Bacharach is equally enthusiastic. “I really like this way of living,” he says. “It’s very much my cup of tea.”
The two are referring to their new home, Sällbo, a radical experiment in multigenerational living in Helsingborg, a small port city in southern Sweden. Its name is a portmanteau of the Swedish words for companionship (sällskap) and living (bo), and neatly encapsulates the project’s goals – to combat loneliness and promote social cohesion by giving residents incentives, and the spaces, for productive interaction.

Sällbo, which opened last November, consists of 51 apartments spread over four floors of a refurbished retirement home. More than half of the 72 residents are over 70s, like Ahlsten and Bacharach; the rest are aged 18-25. All were selected after an extensive interview process to ensure a mix of personalities, backgrounds, religions, and values, and all had to sign a contract promising to spend at least two hours a week socialising with their neighbours.

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‘It’s like family’:Swedish housing experiment designed to cure loneliness