The real Homeshare

As we come to the end of ‘Lodgers for Codgers’, the Channel 4 documentary based loosely on the Homeshare model of intergenerational shared living, we are reflecting on some of the key issues and how Homeshare can be the answer in the real world beyond the TV experiment. This is a guest blog by Homeshare Sector Development Officer Alice Williams.

Real Homeshare relies on careful matching 

The Channel 4 show uses a speed dating café to match older and younger people who, following their short introduction, agree to move in together for five days in exchange for some rent and help around the house. ‘Real’ Homeshare in the UK is a bit different. It is not a commercial arrangement with a ‘landlord’ and ‘tenant’ relationship. All Homeshare matches are arranged and facilitated by a Homeshare organisation, which carefully vets and matches each party for safety and compatibility and shared interests. They are given time to get to know each other before moving in and the match is monitored and supported on an ongoing basis, to ensure continued safety and security and would not put people with conflicting views or lifestyles in the same house, although I guess this would make for slightly less exciting TV!

margaret and holly in leeds
margaret and holly in leeds

Real Homesharers Margaret and Holly in Leeds

The young people in the series were all facing real issues with housing. Some were still living at home, unable to get that taste of freedom and independence like Liam, Jake and Sophie. They were facing homelessness like Ciaro, or had never experienced what a safe and secure home was like Marvell and Chè. Lucy was even considering living in a van to afford her chosen city.  Social media, lifestyle publications and shops sell the dream of your perfect home and the private rented sector knows this. The cost of having that all-important place to call home is rising beyond many people’s means.

sheila emma emily cheltenham
sheila emma emily cheltenham

Real Homesharers, Sheila, Emma and Emily in Cheltenham

Whether you’re in your 20s or 80s, everyone needs a place to call home. Now more than ever home is a sanctuary. When home isn’t right, others parts of life start to unravel, whether it’s mental health, employment or relationships. Being secure and happy at home is the lynchpin for your general well-being. The motivation for real Homeshare has to be about more than only saving money: for it to work, you must really want to share your time and home life with someone else.  In Homeshare people are matched for compatible interests and outlooks on life. You are a lifeline for each other. It’s more than a room to rent; it’s a friendship and genuine desire to help each other.

There are around 1000 people Homesharing across the UK. Many Homeshare organisations are start-ups and making matches can be hard due to lack of suitable and available participants. There are estimated to be 3.8 million older people living alone.  If only 1% of these considered Homeshare, we could create a vibrant and thriving alterative to a housing market which fails so many.

Read about real Homeshare matches here

Find your local Homeshare provider to enquire with here 

Healing the Generational Divide

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration has launched Healing the Generational Divide interim report.  We gave evidence to the inquiry on how Homeshare can bring generations together, such as these housemates with a seven decade age gap.

The report highlights four areas for bridging divides:

  • Intergenerational communities: the role of local, grassroots initiatives which unite generations through shared interests such as art, music, politics and conversation, what they can do to be more effective, and how local and central government can help them thrive.
  • Intergenerational public services: how intergenerational connection can be embedded throughout care and education, on public transport, and via schemes to help older people stay active in their communities.
  • Intergenerational housing and planning: how existing housing can be used to improve intergenerational connection, and how new housing, as well as whole towns and cities, can be designed for all ages.
  • Technology and intergenerational connection: the role of technology as both a source of disconnection and loneliness among different age groups and as a potential tool for strengthening intergenerational connections.

It also suggests some interesting initiatives alongside ours such as:

  • 1p charge on self-service checkout machines:  technological changes, which reduce human contact, can fund initiatives that support greater social interactions.
  • Co-location within care and education: all nurseries, schools and care homes should be encouraged to link up.
  • A new flagship national volunteering service for older people.
  • Tax break for volunteering within public services.
  • ‘Take Your Headphones Off Day’: to promote conversation on public transport

Interesting and no doubt media-hooking ideas. But I think that Homeshare reminds us is that there is no reason for the generations to live separately. This divide is not something which has happened due to human nature, it’s been inadvertently but actively fostered by the way we have organised public services and public spaces around age-specific needs or activities. There’s also an economic element, particularly in middle-class areas where housing has become unaffordable to an entire generation. We need to reverse those divisive policies not to tackle a problem which has occurred naturally, but because our current policies are creating and maintaining the problem.

We will see fewer intergenerational divides when we are able to see people first and foremost as individuals, not as their ages.