Home | Practical Living | Sharing is caring: pairing the young and old in new HomeShare model
Homesharers Joan and Yve. Photo: Holdsworth

Sharing is caring: pairing the young and old in new HomeShare model

One is fussy, one is laid back. One is punctual and clean, the other is messy and always late. One is young, the other is old.

This isn’t another reboot of The Odd Couple, but the potential pairings tossed up by a program being trialled in Sydney that is designed to tackle the social isolation felt by seniors and reduce financial strain for younger people.

The new ‘HomeShare’ program, led by the not-for-profit Holdsworth Community and with funding from Woollahra Municipal Council, aims to pair an older home owner with a younger Aussie in a house share in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

The older home owner is able to remain in their own home with an increased level of safety and security and an improved level of wellbeing, and the younger tenant gets companionship and a cheaper place to live.

Woollahra Mayor Peter Cavanagh, who launched the scheme, said: “This is a great initiative, where the older people with whole of life experience share wonderful stories and histories and so forth. And we can bring together some young people, it can help those people’s stories live on.”

Matching the sharers is the job of a Holdsworth coordinator, who liaises with the homeowner to tailor the ‘share’ to the individual. They conduct rigorous background checks into the potential tenant, including police-checks, references and several interviews.

The scheme is a fee-based service, shared between the homeowner and tenant, with the costs going only to cover the cost of running the scheme.

It aims to solve two social issues with one solution. Studies show that social isolation can be as harmful to a person’s health as a 15-a-day smoking habit, and having a tenant and companion will seek to combat any health issues associated with loneliness.

For the potential tenant, Holdsworth predicts that the agreements could be up to a third of the price of average rent in the commercial market, helping younger people cope with the rising costs of Sydney living.

Studies conducted into a similar project, previously run in Victoria, showed that homeshares reduce the usage of subsidised residential care. Victorian hospitals also benefited through savings due to early householder discharge. And the Department of Veterans’ Affairs showed savings, again, due to less reliance on subsidised units of community care.

This idea has been popularised elsewhere. Schemes are run in 13 other countries including the UK, US, Japan, France and Germany, and they all fall under the HomeShare International banner.

Holdsworth aged care specialist Wendy Francis worked on a similar project in Western Australia, and bases her current program on work by the Homeshare Australia and New Zealand Alliance.

“The ideal outcome is to offer another creative option for older people to enable them to live positive, engaged lives in their community. [It’s] another option for them to consider whether they need to go into residential care,” Francis said.

Ruth Kestermann, chief executvie of Holdsworth Community said: “We realised what an amazing solution it is for Sydney if you look at the huge housing affordability crisis. We see loneliness and isolation in this community; not just for older people, but across the community.”

Kestermann took part in a recent roundtable with Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt, who passed on the idea, but there are hopes that a successful run in Sydney will bring some Government funding.

“The reality is, as I understand it, that with the funding options that are out there now, it’s hard to make HomeShare fit into those rigid funding models,” she said.

“We’re really convinced that we can make this work as a financially sustainable model, especially here in Sydney where you’ve got demand for both sides of the HomeShare match and equation, … without government funding. I think it’s really empowering to communities to be able to solve those issues themselves,” she said.

Holdsworth is currently screening applicants. To find out more go to holdsworth.org.au.

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