The concept of “homeshare” has opened many doors for older people and their families since it began in the UK in the 1980s and has grown rapidly over this time.

For those new to the idea, it involves an older person with a spare room welcoming a younger person – called a sharer – to live alongside them. Effectively they live in the home like a family friend. 

It is a highly-regarded and appealing option for thousands of people, both young and old.

In Scotland it is a popular option in the main cities, such as Edinburgh or Glasgow, with around nine per cent of our householders living there.

Homeshare is an alternative choice for people who do not need, or want, what have been traditionally labelled as the next steps for older people, namely residential villages or care homes.

Instead, it offers a unique and very different solution that nothing else can match; quite simply, providing a low-cost option for independent living in your own home.

For more than 15 years, Share and Care Homeshare has been matching householders with sharers across Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

It is perfect for older people with a wide range of low-level support needs: from those living with mobility issues, Dementia, or Parkinson’s; to couples with one partner who is living with a long-term illness; and even individuals who simply want some extra company.

Typically, our sharers, who are all fully-vetted, range in age from 24 to 50, and normally study or work full-time. 

HeraldScotland:

(Caroline Cooke)

We take the time to “match” like-minded people so that people can bond over areas of mutual interest.

For instance, pairing an elderly lady in Edinburgh whose late husband had been in the whisky distillery business, with her sharer who was a mature student studying a brewing and distillery degree at Herriot-Watt University.

READ MORE: 'If we get it right good care may not cost as much as we think'

She was delighted to feel that she had had a part to play in the start of his successful career in the whisky industry.

Sharers live in the home and agree to provide 15 hours of practical help each week; tailored to the householder and what will make a difference to their day-to-day lives.

For instance, it may be cooking and sharing a roast dinner on a Sunday, or shopping at the local market for groceries, or even popping down to the pharmacy to collect a prescription.

Equally, support could be in the form of simply playing a game of cards, taking a stroll around the park, or watching the latest David Attenborough documentary together.

On occasions, some older people who have more than one spare room, choose to have more than one sharer.

Of course, this means double the company, and indeed double the support, which can be invaluable.

What’s important to acknowledge here is that homeshare is a mutually beneficial arrangement and a way to give back; everyone gains enormously, it’s not one-sided.

READ MORE: Independence 'not easy solution' to social care funding dilemma

Everyone has a sense of purpose and has something important to offer, and this is clear from the number of long-lasting intergenerational friendships that have been formed between older people and younger people who have homeshared over the years.

By opening their homes, older people are supporting younger people with a comfortable, affordable home, in locations that may otherwise be out-of-the-question to live in due to high property prices and high rental costs.

Of course, years of experience means there is a treasure trove of stories and insight for older people to share with their younger housemates too, and equally new memories are made between them during their time of living together.

Interest in homeshare has grown considerably over the past decade for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s down to choice.

HeraldScotland:

Why should people be pressured into moving into a care home when they reach a certain age?

Our views and opinions are changing for the better, and people are now far more aware that we all have a choice and, if we want to continue to live in our own homes and in our own communities, there is a way we can do this with a little extra support.

READ MORE: 'I pray everyone will be willing to pay higher taxes for aged care'

External factors are also driving people to consider alternative choices; an ageing population, lack of housing, and particularly now the high cost of living means better value options are even more attractive.

We have many fantastic heart-warming stories of householders and sharers, showing how well it’s worked for both sides and the incredible impact of Homeshare, not only on those directly involved, but also on the families of loved ones.

These stories have been shared widely on television, radio and in many magazines.

One of our sharers is also an author and he’s even written a book about his homesharing experience during the pandemic, called The Marmalade Diaries: The True Story of an Odd Couple.

The ability to remain independent has a great impact on older people.

They can thrive in their own homes, in their own communities, without the need to just cope – instead they can flourish with the support of homeshare.

Cost-effective living is important across the board at this point in time, and homeshare is incredibly good value for money. As an example, residential care costs thousands of pounds per week, live-in care costs hundreds of pounds per week, and even day care centres soon add up.

Homeshare, on the other hand, costs only £35 per week.

Support with daily tasks can make the world of difference to people who struggle with certain chores. A little helping hand with tidying the garden or taking the bins out can improve quality of life considerably.

Companionship significantly improves health and wellbeing, helping to relieve stress and anxiety.

Since the pandemic loneliness and isolation have soared and being paired with like-minded people is incredibly beneficial.

Peace of mind is achieved and families always explain how reassuring it is for them to know that there is someone else in the house to support their loved one – creating a sense of reassurance, safety and security.

Homeshare can revolutionise the way we live; sharing our homes and sharing our lives with others.

Caroline Cooke is the founder of social enterprise Share and Care Homeshare.