A reflection on inter-generational living in Oxford. An older and a younger person describe their personal experiences of living together.
Halton is taking an innovative approach to helping their aging population stay in their homes while also avoiding the social isolation that can come with growing old.
The goal of the program is to match a home provider with someone looking for a place to live. However, the person planning on moving in has to be willing to help out around the house. In return, they receive a reduction in rent.
For example, a homeowner who needs help with laundry and cutting the lawn would look to be matched with another person who was willing to do those chores to save money on what they pay each month in rent.
It allows seniors to stay in their homes with “both dignity and independence” while also remaining in the community they have lived in for years. It also helps them feel less isolated, which Thompson said is becoming a larger concern for many older adults.
As well, it provides companionship and a sense of security. “The number 1 reason why (applicants) considered a home share is security at night,” she said. “It’s a big component because they often might be nervous about, say, a fall in the middle of the night or having something happen and they’re alone.”
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For Diana Gustafson, getting involved in a pilot project to match university students in need of a place to live with older homeowners who have rooms to spare was twofold.
“It really resonates with me in terms of my commitment to social justice and community-based activities,” she said, “and it came at a time in my life where I was living in a home where I couldn’t do my own shovelling. It was a big house and I thought it would be great to share it with someone.”
Gustafson has opened her home to three students since Home Share NL was launched in 2012, and she’s among those who hopes the program finds a way to reach more people.
"This wasn’t going to work", Gordon thought, when he first met a potential housemate. His house was getting to be too big, and too much work, for just one person. He’d thought he’d try to find a housemate through HomeShare, but the guy he’d just met was far too energetic. He and Gordon didn’t have the same personality at all. Gordon thought he’d give up on the idea of finding a housemate, and just sell his house instead. He didn’t really want to move yet, but he knew he’d have to find a smaller house eventually.
But his house just didn’t sell. Then, after months of unsuccessfully trying to sell his house, he heard from HomeShare again. They had another potential housemate for him to meet, and he might feel more comfortable sharing his house with this one.
Fortunately, he and Wei hit it off right away. “We laugh a lot,” he says. “He has an accent, and I have hearing difficulties, but somehow we always eventually figure out what the other one is saying. Wei is a really nice guy.” Gordon can still do many things around the house, though Wei helps out with the work. “He does a little extra, and then I do a little extra,” Gordon says. “It all evens out.” For the past year and a half, they have played ping pong together and shared many meals; Gordon taught Wei to ride a bike; Wei has taught Gordon a bit of Chinese.
Even though he can manage most of the work on his own, Gordon says it’s nice just to know someone else is there. Now, he wants to tell other seniors to give the HomeShare idea a chance. “You can always see what comes your way,” he says. If you meet with a potential housemate and you don’t feel like you’ll get along, “you can always say no.” He is glad that he found a good housemate and a good friend - and that he doesn’t have to worry about selling his house quite yet.
Liz is a senior whose arthritis limits her mobility, and she knows it’s the little things that make a difference when you can’t get around very easily.
In her community newsletter, Liz read about HomeShare, a program that matches responsible adults who exchange housing for help in the home. She decided to give it a try. Liz really appreciated how the program screens potential housemates before introducing them. She also really liked the opportunity to meet potential housemates face-to-face beforehand, to decide if she wanted to live with the person or not.
That’s how Nancy came to live with Liz. Liz gives Nancy affordable accommodation and Nancy helps with chores around the house. “She does the grocery shopping for me. She knows what I like, the prices, what’s on sale.” This gives Liz peace of mind. And she really appreciates that she is able to stay in her own home for longer. That’s not to say there aren’t bumps along the road. “I’ve learned if there is something I want Nancy to do, I have to write it down,” Liz says.
Liz encourages other seniors out there to give the program a try. “If you are a senior on your own, be willing to meet someone. You can meet the person, do a short contract, and continue longer if you like it.” Liz and Nancy have renewed their agreement several times and have been together almost 3 years now. She adds, “There are people out there that are good, capable, and honest. It is wonderful that there are programs like this to help seniors stay in their homes.”
In Red Deer, Denise matched a 2nd year dentistry student with a senior who is no longer able to cook so was relying on frozen dinners and her sister for meals. The student loves to cook, so has been making her homemade soups and stews much to the seniors delight :) and even invited the senior to have Thanksgiving with her family.
Rebecca lived with Vivian from May to December 2012 when she finished her classes at the U of C.
Get their story on CTV News.
“It’s literally like two minutes out of your day or if it’s something regular like mowing the lawn, it’s a chore you do at your own house if you live you’re your parents anyway so it’s not really hard or unrealistic,” said Rebecca. “Nice knowing that I helped her out and she really appreciates it,” said Rebecca.
“My daughter just lives ten minutes from here and she says it’s such a weight off of her mind because she’s working and then she feels guilty if she isn’t phoning me to see,” said Vivian.
Doreen will be 85 this month. She has been widowed for 12 years now, is part of an active seniors’ group and her church, and has no intention of slowing down. In the cold, though, her arthritis bothers her, and going up and down the stairs to the laundry room can be exhausting. It was getting to the point that Doreen was considering moving to a single level apartment, but really hated the idea of moving from her home of 62 years. All of her memories are there; it is her safe place in an ever changing world. In her community newsletter Doreen read about HomeShare, a program that matches seniors, who have extra room in their homes, with caring adults who need accommodation. She decided to give it a try. Doreen really appreciated how the program screens potential housemates before introducing them. She also really liked the opportunity to meet potential housemates face-to-face beforehand, to decide if she wanted to live with them or not.
That’s how Doreen met Tricia. Tricia turned 60 in October. “I was so glad to find someone who is a late riser like myself,” says Doreen. “We established right away that we would fend for ourselves for breakfast and lunch and then share the evening meal as a sit-down at the dining-room table.” Doreen and Tricia went for their flu shots together. They have spent many hours sharing their life stories. Tricia says, “We are both homebodies. Since I have the whole basement to myself, we both have our space and privacy."
“When we go out for a drive,” says Doreen, “having someone get the walker in and out of the trunk has been a big help.”
“I like making life easier for my new friend,” says Tricia. “We usually shop together, although each of us also picks up things on our own. I do the laundry, bit of yard work, water plants, etc. We are like an old married couple but I, being the younger, do the bulk of the chores. We have fallen into an easy, comfortable kinship. We continue to be grateful for each other and to HomeShare for matching us.”
“We are blessed with a big house”, says Emilia. When their son moved out, she started looking for someone else who could use the space. But she had concerns. “If you put an ad, how do you know? How do you check them out?” A friend suggested that she contact HomeShare, a program where Home Providers offer affordable accommodation in exchange for an agreed level of cost-sharing and help in the home. Her husband liked the idea. “I would not have been interested in a rental”, Roger says, “but sharing our home feels like we are helping someone.”
They were introduced to Julie, a woman who was moving to the city to take a responsible position in the health care industry. Julie thought that HomeSHARE might be a good opportunity to help someone while she adapted to her new job and got to know the city before her family joined her. Roger recalls, “Julie was open about her Christianity. It was almost like God chose and sent her over.” She moved in just a week or so before Roger and Emilia left for an extended trip. “It was perfect”, says Emilia. “We didn’t have to worry about someone checking on the house or about the dog.”
Julie’s heavy responsibilities were very demanding of her time. When a disaster hit the city, her schedule became frantic. Emilia and Roger hardly ever saw her. But she definitely let them know how much she appreciated having a quiet, peaceful home during that time.
When Julie’s family was able to join her, Emilia went house hunting with her. “We are still in touch”, she says. “We were over there for supper recently and met the family.”
Some of Roger and Emilia’s friends were astounded that they were willing to share their home with a stranger but they liked it so much they asked for another housemate.
That decision worked well for Ana, a single Peruvian woman who chose to move to Canada five years ago for the opportunities and adventure. She studied English at the university and got a job after graduating. She discovered HomeShare on the Students’ Union’s housing website and phoned for information during the pilot stage. Learning that she was not eligible because she was no longer a student, Ana moved in with friends but living with others doesn’t always work. There are differences in lifestyle which can create difficulties in a close environment. Ana’s shift work was disruptive to others’ sleep schedules. Life happens and situations can change – a roommate gets engaged… there’s a new baby… After several moves something made Ana check HomeShare again and was happy to learn that the program had expanded to include non-student home seekers.
She was impressed with the meticulous nature of the program. “They really checked my references”, she says. “HomeShare takes the time to find a good fit. It is not just to fill the spaces. The program makes it safe.” The HomeShare Coordinator told her about Roger and Emilia. She was pleased to learn that their home was close to her work place. When she met them, Emilia greeted her in Spanish. They discussed her work and commitments. She was afraid of bothering them if she had to get ready for work at odd times of day. However, the size of the house meant that her schedule would not disturb them. They decided to go ahead with a match.
Emilia wasn’t sure that they would ever find another housemate that fit them as well as Julie did, but she really appreciates Ana’s companionship. “It is great to have someone we can trust – that I like.”
Ana helps with cleaning, vacuuming and snow shovelling. That was a new experience – “I watched the neighbor boys to see how they did it”, she smiles. “I enjoy the help,” Emilia says, “and it saves a lot of time.” She and Ana exercise together; “it’s easier”, says Emilia. And they cook together. “Peruvians have delicious food and I wanted to learn the recipes!”
Ana believes that everything is for a purpose. “You are sharing your time and your life with somebody. I can learn. I can live a peaceful life here and save money for my future.”
“I think God blesses this sort of activity,” says Roger.