As the ageing population increases, there’s less productivity and less resources available too, so our greatest challenge as a society is how to maintain quality of life when we’re living ever longer. Lar no Lar hopes to resolve this with the help of something many elderly people already have: an empty room at home.
Why choose Lar no Lar?
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the founder and president of Lar no Lar, Joyce Craveiro, who launched the project back in December. Joyce told me that “Portugal is the European country with the third highest percentage of elderly people and the one who least invests in them; our policies have remained practically unchanged since our independence in 1974. “Looking at the British expats residing in the Algarve alone, 44 percent of them are 65 and above, wouldn’t it be great for some of them to share their home with someone younger?” Besides gaining a new friend, the elderly person can become a mentor with the added advantage of having company and someone to help them with the language and culture. “Studies have shown the negative impact that loneliness can have on our overall health and this means we need preventive measures to help people stay healthy and autonomous for longer.”
How was initiative was sparked?
This initiative was sparked from Joyce’s own personal experience, where she told me that “a few years back I was living in London, whilst my father lived in Portugal on his own and he was feeling lonelier by the day.” He had an empty room at home so she wished she could find someone trustworthy to take over that room and live with him to keep him company and help him with certain things. Whilst this was happening, she heard about home sharing programmes in London, signed up and was placed with a gentleman. She felt the matching process was really well done as they had so many interests in common, making the living arrangement easy as they always had things to talk about and activities, they wanted to engage in together such as visiting exhibitions or watching The Crown together. “As part of the agreement I had to contribute with a minimum of 10 hours a week of company and help, but since we had so much in common, that was really easy to achieve. We became best mates and are still in contact.”
As a non-profit, Lar no Lar still needs funds to do their work so both parties pay an enrolment and a monthly fee to participate in the programme – that fee is well below what the market rate for renting a bedroom or hiring help at home would be, yet comes with far more benefits. They are currently focusing on growth in the Algarve with the intention to scale up their reach. Eventually their aim is to partner with the government and become one of the options on offer through social security.
How does it work?
Here with Lar no Lar what they are doing is that they are requesting a minimum of 8-10 hours a week which helps “pay” for what you are saving on the bedroom. “In essence it is encouraging people to give back and to use their time for a cause but this does this in a fruitive way because they match two people who have something in common.” It is not meant to be a replacement for services and you are in no way a carer but a social companion to the elderly person and in fact one of the requirements is that the elderly person has to be either independent and able to do everything for themselves or have another person who cares for them. The organisation takes the person who is going to be living with the elderly through an extensive vetting process so they do background checks on them and they request references but they also request the same from the elderly host. They are accountable to both people and they make sure they are trustworthy. The elderly person’s home is also checked to make sure they have conditions for someone to move in.
Who can apply?
The people who can apply to live with an elderly host need to be adults and need to be deemed responsible, which is done through the background check and interview process. They need to be able to volunteer some of their time every week and they need to have proof of income.
Currently, Lar no Lar is working with The University of the Algarve’s entrepreneurial programme, and the project Lar no Lar was presented to one of their social studies classes. In the future, they have plans for Lar no Lar to be involved in the universities volunteering programme. They also have plans to work with the university in scientific studies on ageing as they want to be able to measure the impact of what they are doing and see the effects and demonstrate it through research. Are the elderly participating more in society? How is their mental health whilst having a person live with them? Joyce affirms that “it is a two-way street and that the elderly person has so much to give and they want them to feel valued and empowered.” They would like to think of the elderly people who participate in this project as potential mentors and as someone who is encouraging and contributing to a better life for the person who moves in with them. “If you think of international students or teachers who have re-located and do not know anybody, wouldn’t it be great for them to move in somewhere where the person can help them get settled and pass on their knowledge of their country and where to get the best things? It gives professionals the option to move away from home yet find an affordable home and they are able to insert themselves in a community because they are living with the elderly who are already living in the community”.
Promoting Lar no Lar
If you are interested in knowing more about Lar no Lar please see their informative website at www.larnolar.org or if you wish to kindly donate, they have details on their website. It would also be greatly appreciated if you could share their website and their flyer, which is on their website which would be great to print out and share with an elderly person who may be able to use their services. Additionally, if there are companies that have social goals and want to give something back or feel that they align with their mission and their vision for a better world and an improvement of social services and quality of life then it would be great if they could help donate or promote Lar no Lar through social media.