Homeshare and COVID-19: Can They co-exist?

Featured article - 21 January 2021
By Laura Paddon, Postgraduate PhD Researcher, University of Southampton

Laura Paddon

"I feel really fortunate to have come across homesharing and I do really appreciate it. Homesharing is an agreement where you both benefit from it so [my co-homesharer] has the companionship and someone around to help do things and I have the financial benefit". This is just one quote from the research I’ve been doing. It’s made me realise how valuable homesharing is. Let me tell you more about homesharing.

Homesharing is where an older adult rents out a spare bedroom at a reduced rate, in exchange for 10 hours of informal care per week - activities such as cooking, cleaning and companionship. Both the older person and the person completing the informal care tasks pay a monthly fee to a homeshare organisation (usually around £150 per person), who arrange homeshare matches and provide ongoing support.

Interviews that I conducted with homesharers and representatives of homeshare organisations throw some light on the implications of COVID-19 for homesharing.

Homeshare and COVID-19

Organisations

Some homeshare organisations such as Homeshare West have seen a steep decrease in the numbers of people coming to homeshare. This organisation relies on students but with more universities changing to online teaching, less students are looking to homeshare. Likewise, many potential homesharers now face worries of giving their co-homesharers COVID-19 and have decided against homesharing.

Yet, other homeshare organisations such as Share and Care and Homeshare Living have witnessed increases in the numbers of interested homesharers. They report that many older people and their families have realised the difficulties of being alone in lockdown/with COVID-19 restrictions and now want the vital support homeshare can provide.

Homesharers

With older people shielding and many homesharers furloughed or working from home, homesharers have reported feeling crowded and confined. Creating a sense of individual space and independence has become more important for homesharers. Nevertheless, younger homesharers have gone ‘above and beyond’ to ensure their co-homesharers’ needs are being met - from walking their co-homesharers’ pets and completing weekly food shops, to collecting medicines from pharmacies and taking over professional housework roles as these people no longer visit.

Overall, fears of catching COVID-19 from a co-homesharer remain and this has deterred some people from homesharing and caused others to delay in finding a new co-homesharer. However, COVID-19 has changed the ways in which some older people and their relatives view their informal care needs. This highlights the help they require and causing additional support needs due to new social distancing measures.

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