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How to make homeshares work: top 5 tips

Alternative ways of living as we get older, compared to the more conventional routes, are fast gaining pace.  People are increasingly seeking different options, and interest in homesharing arrangements has soared in recent years because of its ability to address several key issues society faces.

Caroline Cooke, director at social enterprise Share and Care Homeshare, offers advice on how to make homesharing a success from her organisation’s experience.

What is homesharing?

Homesharing matches older people, who have a spare room, with younger people (generally aged from late 20s to 50s) who are looking for affordable accommodation.  In exchange for a room to sleep in, and a place to call home, the younger person also provides 15 hours of help around the home each week. This could be an extra pair of hands to collect the shopping, prepare a tasty meal, or simply some time sharing a drink and a chat for companionship.

Strong, beautiful, life-long friendships form through homeshare arrangements, with both generations significantly gaining from the experience – it is an equally advantageous living arrangement.

Tips for a successful homeshare

To achieve a happy, healthy, intergenerational homeshare, here are our top 5 tips.

Good communication

Good, friendly communication – between a sharer and the householder (and when appropriate, the householder’s family) – as well as with organisations such as Share and Care Homeshare is crucial. It’s not just about the sharer letting the householder they are living with know about their comings and goings. It’s also about establishing clear boundaries and expectations on both sides right from the start.

Develop a friendship

As a householder, view your sharer as a helpful friend, and not as an employee. A sharer is in effect a volunteer who is donating their time in exchange for a roof over their head. So have regular friendly chats, ask about each other’s days, what’s going on in the world, and so on.  Wonderful friendships are often built, not just between the householder and sharer, but also between families.

Address any concerns

As with any friendship, if there are any concerns, don’t let them build; the sooner they are talked about the better.  Address and resolve any niggles early, before they become an issue.

Give it time!

Everyone is a stranger until they become a friend. We recommend treating the first month as a ‘getting to know you’ period; the sharer needs to learn how you like things done, and there may be some trial and error along the way.

Remember it’s a reciprocal arrangement

There is so much to be gained from homesharing. Homeshare helps both parties in a reciprocal arrangement with both householder and sharer bringing something of value to the arrangement.

Homeshare changes lives; above all enjoy the experience!

Case study:  homeshare in practice

“For the past 20 years, I’ve homeshared with people living with dementia.”

Mirella came to the UK in the late 1990s from Canada for a gap year and decided to embark on a homeshare arrangement.  Twenty years have since past, and during this time she has always homeshared with people living with dementia.

Mirella initially chose the homeshare route because she wanted a cost-effective rental option and didn’t want to live in a house full of roommates.  Instead, she desired something quieter.  She moved in with an older person living with dementia who wanted companionship and the reassurance of another person in their home overnight. Mirella’s initial homeshare experience was so wonderful and rewarding that she wanted to continue.

A rewarding experience

In recent years, Mirella moved into another homeshare, with a lady in her mid-90s who also lives with dementia.  In close collaboration with Share and Care Homeshare, the family decided it was best to introduce Mirella to their mother as a friend of one of the daughters who needed somewhere to live.  At first it was quite a disruptive experience as the lady was not used to having someone else live in her home.  Every day there were different challenges.

Establish a smooth way of living

Between them, a smooth way of living together, and sharing activities, was soon established.  Mirella immediately recognised that the lady wanted help with making nutritious meals, so she makes sure that they cook and share meals together in the evening.  They always sit in the living room with a tray on their laps, eating dinner and watching the news.  This gives the lady an opportunity to discuss current affairs and put her opinion forward on different topics; it keeps the mind active. They also put quiet time aside to sit and read.

The lady with whom Mirella homeshares is fabulous at arranging flowers and so Mirella once planted some flower seeds to grow so that she would have fresh flowers to cut and arrange in a vase.  Unfortunately, just as they began to grow, the lady dug them up thinking they were weeds, but never admitted to it of course!  For Mirella this was frustrating but she says you learn to let it go.

Over the years Mirella has noticed that time changes the mind.  Every day there are challenges which evolve.  Dementia is a maze of changes.  As a homesharer living with someone who has dementia, time out is so important, and Mirella has a job which provides a change of scenery and an opportunity to interact with other people.

Everyone gains from the experience

Challenges aside, everyone has gained enormously from the experience.  Although Mirella supports the lady and her family, her support also comes from the family. Everyone pulls together. Equally Mirella has support from Share and Care Homeshare, founded by Caroline whose father lived with dementia.

More than 20 years ago, a friend suggested homeshare to Mirella as a means to access affordable accommodation – Mirella has said that she is so pleased to have this experience, she learns more every day, and it provides her with an enormous sense of purpose and personal achievement.


Homesharing is a great way to provide older people with support and companionship. To find out more, contact Caroline or Amanda on 020 3865 3398 or visit www.shareandcare.co.uk and follow us on Twitter @ShareandCareOrg

Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash

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