BNP Paribas Swiss Foundation

1h/m²: a student under my roof

The BNP Paribas Swiss Foundation supports the "1h/m²" project. This initiative enables the development of intergenerational ties. The principle is simple: exchange a room for a little help. In ...

30 September 2016

The BNP Paribas Swiss Foundation supports the “1h/m²” project. This initiative enables the development of intergenerational ties. The principle is simple: exchange a room for a little help.

In Geneva, more than 13,000 people live alone in homes of 5 rooms or more. At the same time, many students have a hard time finding accommodation each year. It’s in view of this that the “1h/m²” project was conceived.

The principle is based on exchange: the host provides an unoccupied room in their home and the student offers 3-5 hours of his time every week to help out in different ways. The only financial transaction involved concerns compensation of expenses for heating, electricity, WiFi, etc. The formula “1h/m²” literally means that for a 16m² room, the student offers 16 hours of help each month, that’s 4 hours per week.

photo-duo-cuisine-iphone photo : UNIGE

At the beginning of the school year in September 2016, 23 students were lodged according to this method, launched by the University of Geneva, in association with Pro Senectute Geneva and the BNP Paribas Swiss Foundation. Tested and approved in Germany, where it’s proposed in some thirty university towns, the concept is being tried and tested for the first time in Geneva.

photo : UNIGE photo : UNIGE

A study by the National Academy of Science in 2012 showing a correlation between the quality of the social network and the level of physical and mental health, the project plays an important role in the public health policy to encourage social contact after retirement.

The propositions from hosts, of which two-thirds are under 70 years old, vary greatly. For certain people who are over 80 and live alone in their homes, the requests are essentially for presence at night. Couples in their sixties who have recently retired often ask the student to look after their dog or cat during their absence. Some have quite original requests, like the couple who asked a student from the School of Music to give them singing lessons and to accompany them on the piano, or the man, still working, who doesn’t have time to sort out his photos and who asked the student he’s lodging to compile photo albums.