Moving in with an 84-year-old stranger was one of the best decisions

If you had told me I would go for a walk and live with a British woman in her 80s, I would never have believed you.

When I moved in London coming from Italy seven years ago, at the age of 35, I dreamed of studying graphic design at university.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to do so, but sharing a home with an elderly woman means I can do it – and it’s more mutually beneficial than I could possibly imagine. imaginable.

My life in Italy was perfect, but I always had the feeling that I couldn’t grow there. After the company I was working for 12 years went bankrupt, I decided to change my life, follow my dream of learning English and design and moving to the UK.

When I arrived, I didn’t speak English fluently – which challenged and limited my work options – so I took a job in the hospitality industry to pay the bills.

After six years since, I decided that if I was going to be away from my family in another country, I must make my time in the UK meaningful and pursue my goals.

I want to sign up for an accelerated part-time course, but cost is a barrier. Accommodation in London is expensive, and I know that if I rent private accommodation, I won’t have enough money to study. I have tried sharing apartments with others and even renting a studio apartment but this solution is very expensive.

I basically grew up with my grandparents (Image: Luciana Canu)

I decided to explore my options and discovered home sharing – after a friend suggested it was an option for me – an arrangement in which an elderly person opens their home for someone, usually a younger person, who provides a practical level of help with everyday tasks such as shopping or cooking, in exchange for cheap accommodation.

For me, this was invaluable and perfectly suited to my situation. I see home sharing as an opportunity to develop my English, save a considerable amount of money on rent for my study fund, and to experience the impact of intergenerational life.

Basically, I grew up with grandparents so I have a bit of experience with elderly people but I’ve never done house-sharing before.

In March of last year, Share and Care Homeshare I am married to a lovely woman named Flo who is 84 years old and has memory problems. I’m 42 years old so she’s exactly twice my age.

Before meeting Flo I was a bit worried as I wasn’t sure if I would lose my independence, but when told what the rent would be – £150 a month to live in South West London – I was very excited. shock. and very happy. Not only can I save money on my course, I just do very simple things for her like grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and spending time with her doing some activities.

When I was introduced to Flo about a month later, immediately my relationship with her, and her three daughters, was excellent. Her two daughters live outside of London and the other is overseas so having someone to stay with their mother gives them peace of mind.

The atmosphere was cozy and friendly, and we were all chatting, which made me feel very comfortable. One of Flo’s daughters, Jemima, lives in Italy, so this also helps break the ice; have in common.

We met at the right time (Image: Homeshare Care and Sharing)

Initially, we had a test run just to make sure we were doing well – basically a couple of weeks before the first lockdown last March – so we were both very lucky. meet before it happens. I loved it and have lived with Flo ever since.

When Flo and I are at home, we often have meals together, drink tea, chat, draw pictures, look at photo albums, etc. We also read books in English or Italian because Flo wants to learn my language, which is what that was great. She also helps me with my English.

I am fortunate to have a close relationship with Flo and many fond memories that I will cherish. She is a very active and friendly person who enjoys spending time with her friends and family and enjoys meeting people when she is out and about.

Of course, during the lockdown, this happened and it was tough to find an activity that kept us both busy.

I was still working at the time, so I was worried I might pass the virus on to her, but I didn’t. I’m starting to think I’m lucky to have moved right before this happened – we met at the right time. Of course, it was difficult at first – especially since I don’t have any experience with dementia – but with the support of the Flo family and the support of Share and Care Homeshare, everything worked out. goes well.

Our shared love of walking often sees us strolling in the local park. One day in June last year, we met a man collecting garbage. It gave us the idea to do the same!

Flo’s daughter, who lives in Italy, made us hi-viz pink waistcoats, which have a funny jacket on the back with crossed scavengers and the words ‘Operatore Ecologico’ ( means ‘eco operator’), who has been a conversation starter on many occasions!

There are so many phrases or words she taught me (Image: Homeshare Sharing and Care)

Flo really enjoys picking up trash because she’s doing one of her favorite activities, which is walking. Everyone in the community has been impressed and will stop by to chat with us, and I think parents with kids will be inspired by what we’re doing.

We’ll even make people waiting at traffic lights in their cars shout ‘well done!’ makes us feel so proud!

Intergenerational life has impacted me greatly and has been very positive for both of us. There are such great rewards, not only from a financial perspective, but also emotionally.

I had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a British family, which is not often the case when you come from abroad – the tendency is to stay with people from the same country.

There are many phrases or words that she taught me and my English has improved a lot thanks to her. A special is ‘please sit comfortably’ when we are about to drink tea on the sofa.

It has also supported my mental health during the pandemic as I feel less alone, more protected and fully supported by the Flo family.

Since then, I was able to sign up for a graphic design course and intend to stay in a family sharing arrangement for as long as possible; The only reason that I foresee potentially moving is for work reasons.

Flo says I have become a family to her (Image: Homeshare Care and Sharing)

For young people who are considering pursuing this arranged life, I would totally recommend it. It’s an opportunity to help someone else and feel less alone in a big city. In addition, the older generation has a lot of experience and can advise and support younger people in many aspects; they can also take their time, which is precious.

Flo introduced me to her family, all her friends and neighbors – which is very encouraging and supportive to be surrounded by such lovely people. It’s great to have this while I’m away from my family – she also has a much more social life than I do!

Hopefully I’ve made her happy and made her feel more secure with someone at home with her.

What I want to say to the younger generation is that the elders are just like us, but with years of experience on our shoulders; they want to feel appreciated, useful and involved in our society.

Flo’s daughter Katie has also said how much she enjoys having me around, which is a huge compliment. She believes that her mother can continue to connect with the wider world through intergenerational contact, just like herself, which allows her to remain cared for, reassured, and energized. live as much as possible.

And what does Flo say about me? She said I became a family to her. She and I developed a wonderful friendship, and the sharing in the family helped both of us flourish.

Country of immigration

Country of Immigrants is a series that aims to define the word ‘immigrant’ and explore the powerful first-person stories of people who have come to the UK – and call it home. If you have a story you want to share, send an email

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Huynh Nguyen

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