In many different cultures, i.e., Asian, Native American, African American and Latino, there is a firm tradition of family commitment to the elderly. Seniors are respected for their many years of experience and wisdom. Elder care remains a family issue. Private care may not be an option and there may be few state-funded facilities. The elderly live out their years at home. Common obstacles facing American seniors today are generally not a problem in these other cultures.
In the U.S., families are more likely to live far apart. Children grow up and settle in other states, oftentimes after college graduation. People are left alone to cope without benefit of family or community. For many, senior housing will become an issue at some point in their lives.
The concept of HomeShare began in Atlanta in the 1980's, and is now available in about 30 states including Florida, Arizona and Oregon. It's available internationally, as well, in Australia, England and France. While it was originally aimed at seniors, over the years, it's been modified to accommodate people of various ages and situations. Quite simply put, someone who is suffering from financial hardship or social isolation and who has an extra bedroom to rent is matched up with someone who has a need for an affordable place to live.
The living room and kitchen, and in some instances, the bath, are shared which gives this arrangement the feel of having a housemate rather than a boarder. The homeowner and homeseeker have absolute say over the match. The Agency can only make suggestions. As the program's literature states, "It's not without its challenges but it is a way for older adults to maintain their homes and it can help people of all ages through transitional periods such as divorce, loss of spouse, company downsizing or educational pursuits."
The process can take a couple of months to complete. Dolores Tibbets, M.S.W., the Nassau County's Program Coordinator is meticulous about conducting an exhaustive pre-screening that includes criminal background checks, character references, and meetings between the potential housemates. All the employees and volunteers are sensitive to the fact that this concept involves letting a complete stranger into your home and they are extremely diligent about making sure these potential tenants are mature, trustworthy and consistent in their financial obligations. Additionally, they probe to insure that no former addictions, abuse or other criminal activity go undetected because, after all, homeowner security is paramount.
While they have already had a lot of success (think along the lines of The Golden Girls), naturally, some matches don't work out. Just like in any real life family situation, there are bound to be conflicts between people. Sometimes, lifestyles and habits don't mesh. It could be as simple a problem as experienced by the famous T.V. Odd Couple where one person is finicky and the other one is domestically challenged. Or, it could just be of a logistical nature like the renter's commute turns out to be too far from his job.
In any case, the Agency is there for follow-up. For a year after the match, they'll check in periodically and mediate, if necessary. They are completely committed to making these pairings work and they can always set up a different match, if need be. HomeShares don't have to be forever. They typically last 6 months to 2 years until someone's life situation changes and he is back on his feet again.
If you know of anyone who can benefit from this program, feel free to pass along the contact information:
Family and Children's Association
100 E. Old Country Road
Mineola, NY 11501
516.292.1300 ext. 2312
This YouTube video will further explain the program and who it is best suited for:
The Golden Girls courtesy of Litandmore's photostream
The Odd Couple courtesy of Vintagecat's photostream