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Lockdown has been challenging for many, no doubt about it, but for many of the elderly members of our population there’s been a unique sense of loneliness.

There’s been an inescapable undercurrent of anxiety too. This is an at-risk group after all. However a surprising solution is making waves right now, and it’s homesharing with younger people. Whilst intergenerational homesharing is still pretty new to the UK, it’s on the rise and the pioneers taking the plunge are reaping the benefits.

 

Homesharing is having a moment. So what is it?

In our homeshares, the ‘homesharer’ (a young person) lives in a room in the home of the ‘householder’ (the elderly person). In return the homesharer offers practical support around the house. There’s no rent. Instead, the homesharer pays a monthly support fee to Two Generations, who mediates any issues that may arise – support just a phone call away for as long as the homeshare is in place. As a result, it’s much more affordable than commercial renting.

Two Generations help match householders with the most compatible homesharer for them; and with expert mediation the pair agree upfront what kind of support is needed, like household chores and gardening for a certain number of hours per week. In the days of coronavirus homesharers are proving invaluable as they help out with food shopping, picking up prescriptions and hooking up householders with the technology they need to stay in touch with family and friends – like Zoom so they can receive video calls.

 

And let’s not forget companionship…

…the value of a simple cuppa and a conversation with someone who is on your side. Someone who through living with you and getting to know you, has your back – in very real ways. Human contact is essential for mental health, and good mental health helps maintain physical health and immunity. Having a friend live-in sure makes a difference in a global pandemic.

 

Is it safe to homeshare in the days of social distancing?

In addition to getting references and Enhanced DBS checks, Two Generations are now conducting all introductory meetings via phone/video to help safeguard people from coronavirus. Householders are always given ample opportunity to get to know programme coordinators, and even more time to get to know potential homesharers before a trial period living together gets underway.

When it’s time to meet in-person, more coronavirus protocols kick in, such as homesharers self-isolating for two weeks before they move in. From there it’s up to the householder how they want to manage things. They may be comfortable with the homesharer going out, going to work, getting shopping for them etc. Or they may prefer the homesharer to stay in isolation with them. For homesharers who consider themselves vulnerable, the assurance that the householder is taking shielding seriously is a real benefit. It all depends on the individual, so crystal clear communication about everyone’s needs and expectations is key. Two Generations has built this all important dialogue into their process and has seen an upturn in interest since the start of the pandemic. Co-Founder Sam Brandman says:

“We have implemented lots of COVID-19 protocols. We also ask for a relative of the householder to be involved where possible, so everyone is on the same page. We’ve had a range of enquiries the past fortnight including householders with MS, neurological conditions and dementia, in addition to those just seeking companionship.”

 

The heart-warming story of Norman and Jorge

Two Generations facilitated a homeshare between 91 year old Norman and Jorge, a Syrian refugee. Norman wanted some company and someone to help him cook, and has a passion for politics. Jorge wanted to live in a family environment, enjoys cooking and has worked in peacekeeping for a number of NGO’s. When the two met they immediately took to each other. It’s a wonderful example of how mutually beneficial intergenerational pairings can be. People often assume it’s the older householder who enjoy most of the benefits, with the homesharer making most of the compromises, but the reality is different. Better.

“It’s nice to have someone to care about; going back to a home rather than being alone is wonderful. Norman is really sweet. It’s been going really well and I hope it continues this way.”

Jorge, homesharer

 

The bigger picture

Homeshares are proving to be an effective way of supporting older people during the pandemic, but could they also have a role in tackling that other big killer, that other epidemic? I’m referring to loneliness. Lonely people are three times more likely to be anxious and depressed, and loneliness is linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Lonely people are 64% more likely to develop dementia than those with an active social life and alarmingly loneliness has increased by 49% in 10 years.

According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics, there were 8.2 million people living alone in 2019, however households containing multiple families were the fastest growing type of household. They’ve increased from 170,000 households in 1999 to 297,000 in 2019. That’s an increase of three quarters. Families in these households were a mix of related in some way (e.g. a couple with their child and their child’s partner) and unrelated (e.g two couples house-sharing, or a Two Generations-style homeshare).

With so many people facing loneliness, a lack of suitable housing and extortionate rent when they do manage to find a place, the growing trend for multi-familial and multi-generational living makes perfect sense.

Could the unprecedented challenges posed by coronavirus even accelerate the curve?

 

Curious?

If you are interested in homeshare for you or for someone you love, we would love you to get in touch. Deciding to share your home with someone new is a big deal and we appreciate that, which is why there is never any pressure to enter into an arrangement – even after you have met potential homesharers. However, with our award-winning matching service there’s a good chance we can find someone you’ll like, who could make a positive difference to life at home.