Social isolation is a growing problem facing our elderly population here in Northern Ireland. Increasing rent and the affordability of housing also presents challenges to the younger members of our society. In our blog this week, Frank Johnston from SharedLivesPlus explains their novel solution to both of these issues…
Homeshare brings people together for mutual benefit. Typically, this is an older person who feels they would benefit from low-level support (the householder) with a young adult who needs affordable accommodation (the homesharer). The householder is usually a homeowner or tenant who has a comfortable room to spare. The homesharer provides around 10 hours of practical support and companionship each week in exchange for accommodation that can be cheaper than private sector alternatives.
The Homeshare relationship is based on trust and friendship, allowing people to live well within their chosen communities. Each Homeshare match has the back up of their local Homeshare scheme, which selects and approves them and individually matches their interests, lifestyle and hobbies. Security and household checks are carried out and ongoing support provided to the match.
Over recent decades, links between the generations have progressively weakened, as extended families have continued to live more distantly, and people of different ages spend less time in shared spaces or involved in shared activities. Well-publicised initiatives, such as the co-located nursery and care home model from the Netherlands have shown the value of intergenerational contact but remain the exception.
Homeshare is an approach we can expand now, using existing houses, and at little cost to the state. Homeshare works. It has a decades-long track record in the UK and is now much more extensive in several countries. It works because it sees that two groups of people often thought of in terms of their problems, also have much to offer: not just a spare room and the ability to help out, but, crucially, companionship, which young people can lack just as much as older people.
Homeshare UK is part of a global movement with programmes operating across 17 counties including; Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and USA. There are currently 22 schemes operating across England, Scotland and Wales and 2 in the Republic of Ireland. There is currently no Homeshare provision in Northern Ireland.
Homeshare UK was commissioned by the Department of Communities to undertake a small feasibility study into the potential of Homeshare to support older people in Northern Ireland. Findings from the report and an open discussion with key organisations and stakeholders is taking place in Belfast on Friday 16th November between 11am-1pm.
If you are interested in finding more about Homeshare and how the model could be developed to support older people in Northern Ireland, sign up for the free event via Eventbrite here:
For more information on Homeshare visit: www.homeshareuk.org
What do you think of this novel approach? Would you be interested in taking part in the Homeshare scheme? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
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