Strangers becoming friends
How a pioneering housing initiative gives different generations the support they need to help each other
“Mary coming to live with me has changed my home from a lonely place to one full of fun and laughter, as well as lovely cooking smells!” That’s 91 year old Sara Banerji’s take on her new housemate, 35 year old Mary Welch.
The pair live in Sara’s east Oxford home and were put in touch through Age UK Oxfordshire’s Homeshare service. The programme pairs up older people who may be looking for some additional help or simply some company, with a person prepared to offer that help alongside an affordable place to stay.
It’s an innovative example of the Oxfordshire Way in action – Oxfordshire County Council’s adult social care vision to support people to live well within their own communities for as long as possible.
For Sara, the new arrangement has changed her life. Sara said “After my husband died, I felt very lonely. I had been married for 66 years and never lived alone. When Mary came to live with me the dark misery suddenly lifted. There was light and happiness in the house again. She’s such a lovely person to have around.”
And Sara isn’t the only person benefiting. Mary is an international occupational therapy student at Oxford Brookes and a part-time NHS worker. 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.
Mary said: “It’s been absolutely brilliant. I get to live with a really interesting person and to feel part of a community. I also love having someone at home to come back to and to socialise with.”
The matching process is understandably robust. Applicants are DBS checked, interviewed and need to provide references. A family member or a friend of the householder is welcome to attend all initial introductions.
As a service of Age UK Oxfordshire, Homeshare Oxfordshire is well-placed to link participants into other services that the charity offers, such as advice and information, exercise classes and bereavement support groups.
Marian Pocock, Manager of the Homeshare Oxfordshire service, said: “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.
“Although each Homeshare arrangement is so individual, with everyone’s circumstances and motivations for taking part being very different, it’s so heartening to see how Homeshare really can transform people’s lives”.
Becoming a ‘sharer’ in a Homeshare arrangement has proved particularly popular with workers in Oxfordshire’s health and care sectors, helping secure affordable housing options for people with a natural desire to lend a hand.
Karen Fuller, Oxfordshire County Council’s Interim Director for Adult Social Care, said: “Age UK Oxfordshire is an integral Oxfordshire Way partner, working closely with our adult social care team to support older residents to live well in their own homes and communities.
“Homeshare is an innovative example of bringing people together, offering mutual support to help people to live happy, independent lives. I hope Mary and Sara’s experiences encourage even more people to get involved in the programme.”
For more information about the Homeshare service including details about how to apply, visit ageuk.org.uk/oxfordshire
For details about other home support options, go to oxfordshire.gov.uk/livingathome
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