A happy sharing of spaces, hopes and needs
I used to see the elderly in my parish looking sad. They were still able to fend for themselves despite their age,
but something was missing for them to be happy. Based on this, I felt the need to start co-housing: apartments
that would allow them to still be independent, but with common spaces and the possibility to connect with others.’
Don Natalino Pedrana, parish priest of Rovellasca, starts telling us about his inclusion project, what he has already
done and what he would like to accomplish. Everything starts with the idea of allocating some unused spaces belonging to the oratory to a co-housing project; thus the first 5 apartments were born, with several common spaces to encourage socialising and home to 2 elderly people and 2 university students. While the former benefit from subsidised rent and a day centre where they can carry out recreational activities, the students are granted a free apartment on condition that they help and assist the elderly when needed.
Continuing the engaging story, Don Natalino talks about how, based on continuous exchanges between 2 seemingly
distant generations, relationships characterised by friendship and affection are actually born that are rewarding for
This ‘super parish priest’ has begun work on a second building that will house 8 more apartments and a garden open to the entire community, designed as a place of inclusion and meeting, for grandparents and children together. The Fondazione Provinciale della Comunità Comasca onlus, which works to promote giving, to improve the quality of life of the local community (www.fondazione-comasca.it), immediately took the project to heart by starting a fundraising campaign. The goal of the foundation is now to make the Rovellasca project an example to be ‘exported;’ the population is constantly ageing and it is, therefore, necessary to give the elderly the opportunity to live better, at a very low cost (compared to a retirement home, for example) and avoiding having these individuals go through the terrible experience of feeling invisible. Mrs Onorina, who lives there, and Davide, a young university student, wanted to talk about their experience.
Why did you decide to join this initiative?
D: I am one of the 2 custodians who have lived here since last September. I joined this initiative thanks to Giacomo, my friend and current roommate, who at the beginning of the summer was looking for an apartment near Milan. So he tried to involve me in this experience and I accepted ‘the challenge’ with enthusiasm.
O: Knowing about this wonderful initiative, I decided to move in because I love socialising and I wanted to get closer to the centre of the village.
What do you like most about co-housing?
D: Co-housing is very nice because it allows you to have neighbours for whom you not only provide a sense of security, but are also like a grandchild. In addition, for us young people and students, it is perfect to have the comfort of an apartment near Milan while ‘paying’ by providing a useful service to the community.
O: Not living alone; having an elevator, food that is ready at noon and in the evening, and an assistant at night.
What is one fond memory from this experience?
D: One of the best memories is a pizza party with the residents and some of their friends. Or simple everyday moments, like when we have coffee or chat and joke around – that’s where the beauty of co-housing lies.
O: One of the best memories that comes to mind is celebrating birthdays all together.
Would you recommend this experience to others?
D: Of course, I would recommend this experience to anyone who wants to try living with a friend but, at the same time, is willing to devote a some of their time to those in need. In this way you can fully experience exchanges between 2 different generations, which are mutually enriching.
O: I would recommend it because for us seniors companionship is important but at the same time we can be autonomous and free to do what we want.
Do you want to make an appeal to those who read this?
D: I would urge everyone to donate so that more apartments can be built, so that seniors don’t have to be lonely during their final years. Loneliness can be more painful than many other illnesses.
In addition, these arrangements allow an elderly person who is still self-sufficient to be able to live in a facility built to measure.
O: At present there are only a few apartments and, in order to accommodate as many people as possible, there is a
need to create more apartments. Help us; donating enriches everyone.
To launch the new fundraising campaign, a video interview was conducted by director Paolo Lipari, including the testimonies of residents, who have become the best representatives of its benefits. Famous people, such as Davide Van de Sfroos, Andrea Vitali and Beppe Bergomi, who have always been at the foundation’s side, have joined in.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the project can donate at the following link: