Community service provider Holdsworth Community will pilot a home share program matching seniors with young people.

Ruth Kestermann

The concept is based on the idea that a younger housemate can provide security and support for an older person and enable them to live at home for longer, while giving the younger person an affordable housing option.

Families, communities and disability services minister Alister Heskens says the program will benefit both parties.

“We know many older people living alone can often experience loneliness and this pilot will match them with a younger person looking for housing while they work or study,” Mr Henskens said.

“This is a multi-generational solution to addressing social isolation among seniors and helping millennials live more independently, and learn some life skills along the way.”

Holdsworth has been offering fee-based home share services since 2018 and has also worked with councils to deliver home share programs.

It has now received $200,000 in NSW government funding to subsidise the current program targeting people aged 18 to 24 for 12 months.

Holdsworth Community CEO Ruth Kestermann says about 15 older people have so far benefited from the organisation’s home share services.

In most cases the matches have worked out well, she says.

“What works from our experience is two people who are genuinely motivated to join home share because they’re looking for connection and not just a transactional arrangement,” she told Community Care Review.

“We’re seeing fantastic matches where the younger person may be isolated form their own families and networks and have seen them not only get to know the owner but also the owner’s extended family, and almost have surrogate family.”

Oversight

Holdsworth Community will be responsible for matching young ‘sharers’ with older ‘owners’ and conducting screening, including police checks, and ongoing oversight.

Applicants for sharing will undergo in-depth interviews so they can be matched with someone with compatible values, personality and lifestyle.

Owners will have a series of meetings with their prospective housemates and construct a customised legal agreement setting out their respective responsibilities.

Sharers are not required to provide personal and nursing care although they are expected to provide companionship and help with light household duties like shopping, cooking and cleaning.

An initial 12-month agreement is recommended.

Both parties will have the opportunity to end the arrangement if things don’t work out.

Shared expenses

Holdsworth will negotiate shared household expenses , such as utilities, rather rent for the young person.

Ms Kestermann says the young person will be able to keep an eye on the homeowner and alert Holdsworth if the older person needs any supports or services, which Holdsworth will provide.

“We oversee every part of the arrangement, offer ongoing input, and take the matching process incredibly seriously,” Ms Kestermann said.

“For the home owner, it’s about finding someone whose company they’ll enjoy, and who will in turn value them.”

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