Do not live alone at home. Arrived at 65 or 70 years old, sometimes more, many French people can no longer bear loneliness and seek solutions for daily life. Of course, signing up for activities and meeting new people helps break this feeling of isolation, but that is not always enough. What to do when you are too young to go to nursing home but you do not want to stay alone at home? Planet introduced you to medical flatshares for seniors, with the testimony of a septuagenarian who took the plunge and absolutely does not regret her choice. A new type of shared habitat – actually 800 years old – is developing more and more in France: the beguinage.

Isabelle Maccio, communication officer for the Vivre en béguinage association, reminds Planet that the latter “were born in Flanders in the 13th century” and that the phenomenon then spread over the centuries “throughout the north of the country. ‘Europe”. It was then “communities of women, who had the particularity for the time of living independently. They were essentially single by choice or widowed”. Over the decades, the Church began to manage these communities of women, which therefore lost their independence.

The tradition has continued over the centuries, but it took until the 21st century for the beguinage to be reborn as a “senior’s habitat”, more precisely in the early 2010s. The idea came from a group of seniors from Perpignan, who wanted to grow old together around religious faith. After this first beguinage opened in 2014, the co-founders of the group (from the social and solidarity economy) decided to develop the concept, in response to demand. “The beguinage has become a model of inclusive housing, because it meets the criteria of living together and social inclusion,” Isabelle Maccio told Planet. Be careful, because the beguinage does not suit everyone and not all seniors are made to live in a community. Do you have the right profile?

Isabelle Maccio explains to Planet that the beguinages are intended for “autonomous seniors or those with a partial loss of autonomy”. In principle, these are people from the age of 65, “who want to remain autonomous and independent in their accommodation” and the beguinage is therefore “an alternative between home and senior residences, or nursing homes”. These people no longer wish to stay at home or can no longer do so, because their accommodation is no longer suitable, because it is too far from shops or because they are alone, after the death of their spouse.

Future residents can then benefit from an individual apartment, T2 or T3, at moderate rent. These homes are backed by “shared living spaces such as a garden, a conviviality room, where the inhabitants will be able to meet”.

The beguinage is made for those who “decide above all to join a project of social and shared life”, explains to Planet Isabelle Maccio: “We don’t come to tell ourselves that we are going to play a game of cards from time to time. We know that we will find mutual aid, solidarity and therefore, inevitably, we are there for our neighbours, in good times and in bad times. We will, for example, help someone who has a health problem, who cannot leave his home for example”. Life together is also central within the beguinage, because the inhabitants will share moments of collective life for leisure or cultural activities.

If mutual aid is at the heart of the beguinage, support for the project of shared life and living together is also an essential element.

Accompaniment within the beguinages takes place at three levels:

“Beguins set up activities, whether they choose to do or not”, specifies Isabelle Maccio, adding: “When you come to live in a beguinage, it’s a life choice so it’s a project that matures for a long time. in advance”. Do not panic, there are no penalizing points when applying for accommodation! We ask interested people to complete a questionnaire, which does not concern the state of health, then an interview is offered to future members. “It’s really exceptional that it doesn’t happen,” she concludes at Planet.