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Homeshare: the positive impact of intergenerational living

Balancing independent living with an older person’s needs is a balancing act for many families. Homeshare could be the solution you seek, writes Caroline Cooke.

homeshare
Homeshare matches older people who require a little help to live independently in their own home.

When people reach a certain age – and perhaps are not as mobile as they once were or need a little extra support as they are struggling on their own due to a health condition – the option of remaining in their own home can sometimes be dismissed as unsuitable or unsafe.  More often than not, traditional routes of care are considered the only route and, in some instances, this can be unwanted and unnecessary.

An older person may not wish to move into a care home for a number of reasons.  Perhaps they do not require the level of support provided in a care home, instead only needing a helping hand with daily tasks around the house.  Perhaps they have lived in their own home for many years with fond memories and have no desire to leave the house – or the community – they call home.  Or perhaps the high cost of moving into a residential care is a barrier, and a more cost-effective solution is needed.

Regardless of the reasons, what’s important is that there are other options.  Homeshare is an alternative that plays an essential role in helping older people live independently in their own homes for longer, and has a great deal to offer.

Homeshare: 40 years and counting!

Simply, homeshare matches older people who require, and would benefit from, a little help to live independently in their own home, with people – ‘sharers’ – who are looking for an affordable home to live in, usually younger people.  The sharers pledge to provide 15 hours each week of practical help, support, and companionship in exchange for accommodation.  This could be any manner of light duties to support the older person, such as cooking a dinner, collecting medication, shopping for groceries, taking out the bins, prompts and reminders, as well as perhaps catching up on a favourite TV programme together.

In some instances, older people who have two spare bedrooms choose to have two homesharers living with them, which not only gives them double the company, but double the practical support too!

Homeshare:  the options

For older people, particularly those with lower-level support needs who wish to remain in their own homes and communities and only require an extra pair of hands to make life easier, homeshare fills a gap in a way that other support options cannot.

Equally, for people with higher-level support requirements, or for those who require personal care, a care package can sit alongside a homeshare arrangement, providing a greater level of flexibility.

At Share and Care Homeshare, we have been matching householders and sharers across the UK for more than 15 years, and we see the enormous positive impact it has on older people and their families, and on the younger people too.

Homeshare is a growing sector. The Homeshare UK website provides more information and lists other organisations that are members; it includes a useful map to help find a provider in your local area across the UK and ROI.

Intergenerational impact

Older and younger people experience significant benefits from intergenerational living:

  • Cost-effective living

The incredibly high cost of residential care is no secret, with charges topping a thousand pounds a week not unusual.  Equally, a live-in carer costs hundreds of pounds every week, as does an overnight carer.  Indeed, even day care centres – or a live out personal carer – can total around £100 per day.  Homeshare offers much better value for money, costing just £35 per week.

Equally, homesharers are often mature students and professionals aged between 25 and 59; for them, this is a route to low-cost accommodation enabling them to remain living in a family environment, in areas that they may otherwise be unable to afford. They are therefore happy to give the agreed level of support in exchange for an affordable home. 

  • Support with daily tasks

Support with daily tasks can be a lifeline for many older people and make the world of difference, enabling independent living.  From the small tasks such as having someone there to open a tight bottle or jar, carrying the shopping from the car to the kitchen, or tidying up the garden with someone else there; it is this support that improves the quality of life.

  • Creating companionship

Loneliness and isolation have soared since the pandemic, and intergenerational living addresses this issue for both younger and older people.  The amazing companionships that younger and older people forge play a key role in supporting mental health and wellbeing by helping to relieve the stress and anxiety that being alone creates. Being paired with like-minded people also increases peoples’ confidence, through sharing a common interest such as gardening or the arts for instance.

It is common for older people to say that they don’t need help, but what is usually happening is that they are merely coping, not flourishing.  Homeshare helps people flourish and thrive by overcoming the challenges of loneliness; both for younger and older people.

  • Reassurance for families

The security of having someone else, who has been through strict safeguarding and vetting procedures, stay in the home of a loved one is reassuring.  Reassuring that they have company and someone to talk to, as well as from a safety and security point of view.  With someone in the home overnight, and in case of an emergency, the alarm can raised earlier than if a loved one is living alone.

Who uses homeshare?

Anyone who would appreciate and benefit from a little help to live independently uses homeshare arrangements and, because of its flexibility, it works for a wide range of people with different needs.

  • Older people who live with mobility issues, sight and/or hearing loss, conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or arthritis. 
  • Couples with one partner who is living with a long-term illness
  • Families who have children or young adults with physical disabilities or learning difficulties such as autism, ADHD or Down’s Syndrome
  • Adults with support needs such as autism, bipolar disorder, early onset Alzheimer’s, depression or anxiety

Homesharing: how it works in practice

Patricia juggling
Patricia performing as a juggler.

In her younger years Patricia, now in her late 80s, travelled the world as a professional juggler; from Las Vegas to London.  In the 1940s and 50s she performed with her father, an international artist known as ‘Stetson the Mad Hatter’, and Patricia became the highest paid female juggler in the world. Over the years, she performed with many famous people including Vera Lynn, Tommy Cooper, Yehudi Menuhin, and Edith Piaf entertaining the likes of Winston Churchill at the Lido Casino in Venice, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Cannes and Prince Rainier of Monaco and Princess Grace in Monte Carlo just before their marriage.

Patricia did not need full-time live-in carers as she already had a lovely team of carers who visit daily.  Therefore, during the pandemic, Patricia’s daughter Gillian explored homeshare as an alternative support option, and Patricia was matched with Mich, who moved into the home to live there as a sharer.

For Gillian, it has significantly reduced the pressure and impact of her mother living alone.  She said, “The fact that now when I go and visit Mum I am walking into a happy home, which is a wonderful thing. It used to get me down going over to see mum as the house was so quiet. Now when I visit, Mich will always come join in with me or the carers, which means we bounce off each other and there is noise and laughter, interesting conversation and chit chat. It gives the house a lovely atmosphere and mum is happy to enjoy the warmth of this atmosphere and do her jigsaw puzzle.

Patricia and Gillian cropped
Gillian and Patricia enjoy a day out.

Patricia has benefitted from the company and reassurance of having someone living with her which has alleviated the loneliness and social isolation accentuated during the lockdowns.  The homeshare arrangement has also reduced anxiety and increased confidence, raising happiness; which collectively support mental health and wellbeing.

“Before Mich came, mum would be in tears when I had to leave, saying she didn’t want to be alone but didn’t want to go into a care home either,” explained Gillian.

“Now when I drive her home after being at our house there is a light on in the bedroom; I am not taking Mum back to a dark and empty house, and because someone is living there, the heating comes on at the right time, things that are broken have been brought to my attention and replaced or fixed,  messages get taken and there is even someone to open the door when tradesmen arrive. We are absolutely delighted to have Mich living with Mum, and so grateful for the homeshare arrangement. It just goes to show that sometimes you just have to be brave and find a non-traditional solution,” concludes Gillian.

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Tags: , Last modified: October 6, 2021

Written by 1:03 pm Property

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