June is Senior’s month in Canada. As you know we have more seniors living than young people under age 15 and even though numbers are high, seniors often find themselves alone and unfortunately for many, they are lonely. I have previously blogged about the appointment of the British Minister for Loneliness and the high health care cost associated with feeling lonely. In today’s blog I want to highlight a wonderful initiative that has proven successful in addressing this issue for both seniors and young people- which by the way, affects almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24. Red Deer Alberta led the way when they launched their program in 2012 and other provinces have followed with setting up their own programs.
The HomeShare Program recently piloted by the City of Toronto was designed to match older adults (aged 55 plus) who have a spare room, with university and college students who need affordable housing. In exchange for reduced rent (between $400-600 per month) the students provide up to 10 hours of ‘companionship and /or help with light household tasks such as preparing and sharing a meal, tidying up, or walking a pet.’
Social workers match participants ( at a cost of approximately $200 for screening, matching and follow up) to ensure safety and compatibility.
The HomeShare pilot has been such a success that the project has now been extended to Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth, Northumberland and Ottawa regions. In some regions the offering has been expanded to match single women who have a spare room with other single women who are seeking ‘safe and affordable accommodation in the community and in Ottawa, the program matches homeowners with 2SLGBTQ homesharers.
The premise is that in exchange for a reduced rent, the homesharer provides companionship and household assistance to the homeowner.
All of following ingredients make a good recipe.
- the lack of affordable housing,
- the fact that many seniors want to remain living in their own homes and many have a spare bedroom
- and the acknowledgement that being lonely is bad for one’s health
all mixed together work very nicely.