For those who want to age in place in their own home and believe they can benefit from having someone else around to help, home sharing may be a viable solution. Similar in some ways to the cohousing model, the concept dates back to the early 1980’s in the USA but has recently garnered attention in Ontario as some regions have created intergenerational HomeShare programs. A shared housing arrangement occurs when two people who are not related choose to live together on a long-term basis for the mutual benefits cohabiting offers. Essentially, in the context of senior housing, home sharing agencies/coordinators match elderly homeowners, with younger people looking for a home. The younger ‘renter’ usually agrees to contribute in the form of household assistance, in exchange for reduced rent. With our increasingly expensive housing market and the reality that many seniors live in homes with more space than they need and can afford, this concept can resolve a financial issue for many on both sides of the equation.
The benefits – besides saving money for both as some expenses can be shared (and the income can be put towards the cost of running the home for the owner and, rent would be less than market value for the renter) – include companionship/friendship for both, assistance with household tasks (which may include shopping, cooking, light housekeeping or gardening), emergency assistance if required, and a sense of security (because someone else is in the home at night) for the senior, all of which allows them to stay independent in their own home. To a certain degree, this can allow for some Aging in Place for seniors, reducing the pressure on our senior housing and long-term care system where waiting lists are increasing. However, with this concept, personal caregiving for the senior is NOT included and would have to be purchased so, for some, this would be a limiting factor.
The renter can be a younger senior, someone whose living situation is in transition, or even a student. Before living together, the housemates would clarify their expectations and boundaries. It may be safest to seek out a formalized program rather than finding a ‘roommate’ on your own because such programs/organizations would do screenings & background checks, clarify expectations, and help to match people that seem like they would get along before arranging a meeting between potential housemates. Once a match is found, a formal contract detailing expectations and house rules (including guests, household tasks, parking, pets, use of kitchen/common areas, phone/tv/internet use and payment, itemized cost-sharing parameters, and privacy) should be drawn up and signed by both parties.
Current HomeShare projects in Ontario include Northumberland County HomeShare Project and Halton Housing Help. For more information please see The Halton HomeShare Toolkit at torontoist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-HomeShare-Toolkit-Final.pdf. Additionally, after a pilot project in 2018, the City of Toronto created the Toronto HomeShare Program. For information visit www.nicenet.ca, call (416) 978-4706 or email, email@example.com.
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