It is no secret that there is an epidemic in loneliness across the UK – 1.4 million older people in the UK are often lonely . Many older people will go weeks without speaking to anyone. Whilst the mental effects of loneliness are obvious – depression, anxiety and low mood – research into the physical effects are linking loneliness to increased blood pressure and poorer immune function .
Homeshare tackles isolation and loneliness by matching those who may live alone and are in need a bit of extra support, with those who have a housing need. Each week homesharers provide around ten hours of practical support or companionship, which could include activities such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, gardening or even simply watching TV together.
When 91 year old Sara’s husband died after ‘66 years of joyous marriage’ she describes having felt ‘utterly alone’ and having developed a ‘strong dislike for the place that had been a happy home in Oxford for so many years’.
Sara knew that having someone living alongside her in the house was what she needed and Mary’s arrival brought “light and laughter” to the house again. “Mary is just such a lovely person to have around”, Sara smiles.
The benefits for 41-year-old Mary, an Occupational Therapy Masters student at Oxford Brookes University, are also significant. A naturally caring person, Mary was drawn to Homeshare as her student housing wasn’t working out and she found herself priced out of most other accommodation in Oxford, one of the most expensive cities in the UK.
“It really has been so good!” Mary reflects. “Not only do I get to live with Sara, who is such a wonderful person – and we have so much fun together – but I’ve also been welcomed into a whole community”.
The Homeshare arrangement with Sara has enabled Mary to accept a job within the NHS when her course finishes this summer: “It’s hard to afford a Band 5 NHS position with Oxford rents being so high, but living with Sara, having my cost of living so much lower has really made that a possibility.”
As well as spending time together over a cup of tea, glass of wine or a shared meal at the end of the day, Mary frequently helps Sarah with technology, setting up zoom calls and helping with phone calls. Sara is very hard of hearing and the extra pair of ears is often invaluable to her.
The Homeshare arrangement has also been a huge relief for Sara’s children, who were worried their mother wasn’t coping well living alone.
“It’s so reassuring to know that Mary is there. It makes a huge difference. And Mary knows she can contact me if she is worried about anything,” says Sara’s daughter.
Marian, who runs Homeshare Oxfordshire, talks about the matching process being key to the success of a Homeshare arrangement: “The matching process is obviously key to the success of a home sharing arrangement, and we take a great deal of care and a great deal of trouble to get that right.”
“We quite often have people who’ve been bereaved, who are living on their own, who don’t want to be living on their own, so they really would like somebody else around.
“For other people, it’s more practical help. Maybe they have reduced mobility or they just don’t have as much energy as they used to have for things. So to have somebody who would help with a bit of shopping, the odd washing up stint, perhaps some of the cooking, can make a really big difference.
“It’s very clear to me that Sara and Mary’s Homeshare arrangement has benefitted them both so much. There is such a reciprocity to it. And we see this so often.”
The reciprocal nature of Homeshare means that both parties benefit. Both gain the companionship we all need, householders provide safe and affordable accommodation to homesharers, whilst homesharers provide companionship and low level support to those in need.
To find your local Homeshare provider please visit our find your provider map.
 Loneliness Research and Resources Age UK. Available at: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/our-impact/policy-research/loneliness-research-and-resources/#:~:text=1.4%20million%20older%20people%20in,underpinned%20by%20evidence%20and%20data
 Campaign to End Loneliness. Available at: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/health-impact/