Would it work in the UK, I wondered, as I read how a home-sharing program in New York is connecting older people in need of housing with a younger host, or conversely, seniors with a spare room with a younger tenant. It is working well in New York. Over 2,000 shares have been arranged.
An example is Freda Schaeffer, who after her husband died found she didn’t like being on her own most of the time, especially being alone at night. She decided she would like someone to share her house.
The New York Foundation for Senior Citizen’s Home Sharing programme matched up her up with several individuals over time and they all worked out well. Mrs Schaeffer said that as well as giving her companionship the arrangement also helps her financially, because she’s on a limited income and there are numerous expenses in maintaining her house. ‘I’ve had several people matched and it worked out successfully,” she said.[i]
Since it launched in 1981, the New York Fellowship for Senior Citizens has matched more than 2,000 individuals through its Home Sharing programme. One of the match mates must be age 60 or older, whether they’re a host or a guest, so it has benefited both younger and older people.
The secret of its success seems to be the way that individuals are matched and the arrangement overseen by the NYFCS. NYFSC conducts in-depth screenings for both parties, checking references and determining compatibility based on their preferences and lifestyle.
Once a match is made, the organization can help facilitate written agreements on the housing conditions. Younger people can be guests, or hosts, and the elderly can receive help with day-to-day tasks, including housework or shopping, depending on their agreement. Some matches have lasted for up to 20 years, and there’s no cost for the screening and services from NYFSC.
When Loretta Halter, 66, moved to New York from Georgia in 2012 to retire, she found the Home Sharing programme a safe way to find somewhere to live in the city. ‘I have complete confidence in them,’ she said.
Now officials are looking to expand the scheme.
So could it work in Great Britain? There are two factors that could make an organisation like Home Sharing a success, if it were organised as well as the New York model. One is the shortage of housing in the UK, and the other is the growing loneliness and isolation of older people. Perhaps churches could run a similar model?