Changing demographics and the housing crisis are two pertinent issues facing local authorities in Ireland, and we’re seeing that they can be effectively addressed together – through home sharing initiatives. Elder Home Share matches up vetted accommodation seekers to live with elderly homeowners in their own home as a home share companion. Here, its founder, Saoirse Sheridan, writes about her experiences running the organisation, and her own experiences in home sharing.
The people we place are working professionals and third level students; they are reference-checked and I can do Garda vetting too. You get to meet with and choose who moves in. The first month is a trail to make sure it works for both parties.
The home share companion provides companionship and support for an agreed amount of time each week in exchange for a place to live. They also usually make a monthly contribution of 150 Euro a month to the household. David, who is Elder Home Share’s oldest client, at 98, says “the service is excellent, I enjoy the company of my home share companion, she is very helpful.”
I came up with the idea for Elder Home Share when I was given notice to move out of my rented accommodation. I needed a solution as I had gone back to college as a mature student and I was not able to pay for expensive accommodation. I grew up with my own gran in the house and I valued the relationship I had with her. I got to thinking wouldn’t it be great if I could help an elderly person in exchange for low-cost accommodation, my idea began to come to life.
I’ve done 39 matches to date and am working with two new clients now who are looking for a home share companions – one of them is in Galway. A few months ago, I met a super lady who is 91– she is a fluent Irish and French speaker. She asked if I had anyone on my books who might have these language skills. To my surprise, I did, and I am happy to say we created a successful match.
I have been home sharing myself since April 2016 with David. We get on very well and have been a source of stability to each other in different ways. It takes time to get to know a person, but I can genuinely say we are good friends. We’re both left-handed, we’re both only children too and we don’t eat butter or drink milk. Whenever a guest calls over we never have any milk in the house for tea or coffee so there is usually a dash to the shop to get some. There is always plenty of scones and biscuits though as we both have a sweet tooth.
Most of the homeowners I’ve done matches for are in their nineties and live alone, the main reason they want someone in the house is for companionship and added security. Rita reached out to me last year to find a match for her mum and says, “It’s peace of mind as a family to know our elderly mum has some company and extra security at night time and a helping hand around the house.” With the snowfall a few weeks ago I know a lot of my elderly clients and their home share companions were snowed in together, cooking meals, playing board games and watching old black and white movies was some of the feedback on how everyone got on.
Akambo, a carer in one of the home share houses says, “It’s a very useful service,” he knows many elderly people would appreciate having. “From what I have seen the home share companion brings life and warmth to the house.”
For more information visit www.elderhomeshare.ie or call Saoirse Sheridan on 087 13 85 628