Fair House Care — a new model of housing for all ages?
TAONR Hi Ashton, can you tell our readers a bit about who you are?
Ashton My name is Ashton Elli. I am into fashion photography and am Editor of London-based fashion magazine, Defuze Mag . However, since last year I have been working on Fair House Care, a web based platform that aims to help elderly, disabled and lonely people struggling with daily chores. We do it by connecting them with young people who want to save money on rent and are willing to offer a couple of hours a day of help and companionship in return for free or cheap accommodation.
TAONR Can you tell us a bit about your role in this project and your motivation for starting it
Ashton Currently I am mainly working on the project, with the help of my partner as a co-founder and director.
It all started last year with the death of my uncle who had struggled with both disability and the limitations of old age for a long time. He was like a father to me, and it was hard to watch him go through it. I tried to help him as best I could but it was not enough. After his death, I kept thinking of what could have been done to improve the quality of his life. He had often said how much he would have appreciated having someone to stay at his place to help him out a bit, since he had a big home. It struck me that a platform that connects elderly home owners looking for help with young people looking for cheap accommodation could be the perfect solution. It would make life easier and happier for elderly and disabled folk and would saving money for the young lodgers, and at the same time would be doing something to bridge the generation gap.
TAONR Has this project changed how you view age?
Ashton I have always enjoyed talking to elderly. They have so much to give and we can learn so much from them. During my work for Fair House Care, I have talked to a lot of elderly people and my views have been strongly reinforced about the need I identified.
My uncle wanted to teach Mandarin which he spoke fluently, and with a little support at home he could have done so. There must be many like him whose opportunities would be greatly enhanced by some companionship and domestic help from a young person.
"Every age has its own beauty, charm and benefits. A society where aging is considered an enemy which we must fight against, is setting up unnecessary barriers and wastes talent, experience and wisdom"
TAONR Do you think how old you are today, is relevant to how you think about yourself and why?
Ashton I think society teaches us that age matters, right from the start. When you turn 25, you begin to think that you should settle down. When you turn 30, you start to feel that you are no longer young. From then on every birthday seems a slightly unpleasant reminder that you are getting older. So, no matter how much you may fight or deny it, our age quite strongly affects how we think about ourselves.
Having said that, I have worked with diverse age groups in my career from young teenagers to elderly, and try to live by the principle that your age is just a number, and what matters is how young or old you feel and act, although it is certainly the case that life experience can make you more confident in certain situations, and that comes with age.
TAONR Do you think how old you are today, changes how people think about you and why?
Ashton I believe that I am at an age now which enables me quite readily to connect with those younger as well as those who are older than me, and that in practical terms my age does not much affect how people think of me. Perhaps this comes from my field of work. I have seen and met successful people who started a career in their teens as well as those who started a new career successfully at the age of 70. So, for me age is irrelevant. You are never too old to have fun and you are never too old to do what you want to do.
TAONR Is there a difference between people who know you and people who you have just met? Could you give us an example?
Ashton A lot of people who have known me for a while have a certain perception of me, which is not always the most positive. I have sometimes felt like an outsider, and was never entirely comfortable with the status quo or the confines of my very traditional upbringing. I have tended to be unconventional and a rebel at heart. When I decided to follow my instincts, sometimes in defiance of convention, some of my choices were questioned, criticised and discouraged. On the other hand, the people I have met more recently are quite the opposite, which has made me realise how important it is to have positive people around you.
TAONR What is the biggest stress in your life at the moment? Does this have anything to with how old you are?
"In the race to present a perfect self to the world, you breed insecurity and can end up feeling lonely and isolated. This particularly afflicts the younger generation, indeed it is all they have known, which is why I think that cross generation connections are so important."
Ashton I think the biggest stress in my life is the fear of failure. When you take an unconventional route against everyone’s advice, you can almost feel them waiting to say to you “I told you so”. This may in part come from my age too, because I can sometimes hear that voice inside saying: “you are 38 and you still haven’t built that career or that business…”. But Fair House Care is a concept bigger then myself and my personal ego. I know that right now thousands are struggling just like my uncle did, and being successful will mean seeing a smile on faces, making a real practical difference, and relieving hardship and unhappiness. When the stakes are high, it can be stressful. But you have to stay positive and focused and keep working towards that goal.
TAONR What do you think are the biggest challenges we share across all ages?
Ashton I think the biggest issue we all face is isolation. Even in the modern age of hyper connectivity, everyone seems to be in a bubble of their own. You are in a group of friends and checking your social media, or taking that perfect selfie and then checking how many likes you got. Neither you nor others around you are living in the moment. In the race to present a perfect self to the world, you breed insecurity and can end up feeling lonely and isolated. This particularly afflicts the younger generation, indeed it is all they have known, which is why I think that cross generation connections are so important.
TAONR What can you learn from people who are older?
Ashton They are the essence of knowledge and experience. They have seen a lot more and gone through a lot more than us. They can show us the perspective that we can’t see and they have life skills we can learn a lot from.
TAONR What can you learn from people who are younger?
Ashton The world has drastically changed over last few decades. The pace of change is so fast that it is hard for the older generations to keep up with it. Not so much for the younger generation though, who seem often to know things by instinct, and to pick up and learn them at a much faster pace. So, the older generation can certainly learn a lot from the young.
TAONR What do you think is the benefit of a society where our age does not define us?
"I think society teaches us that age matters, right from the start. When you turn 25, you begin to think that you should settle down. When you turn 30, you start to feel that you are no longer young. From then on every birthday seems a slightly unpleasant reminder that you are getting older. So, no matter how much you may fight or deny it, our age quite strongly affects how we think about ourselves."
Ashton Every age has its own beauty, charm and
benefits. A society where ageing is considered an enemy which we must fight
against, is setting up unnecessary barriers and wastes talent, experience and
wisdom. Age is something to be embraced and not to be embarrassed about, and
when you take age out of the equation, it results in much better integration in
society where talent, skills and experience are used to their fullest
potential, and no one is left in isolation. That has been a strong part of my
motivation in setting up Fair House Care
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