It’s companionship in exchange for housing - but how does it work?

Home sharing between an elderly person and someone seeking accommodation can be a win-win for both, but there are pitfalls to watch out for

It’s not a solution to the chronic housing shortage but, when done appropriately, matching an elderly person in need of companionship with a friendly person in need of a home can be a win-win situation for both.

This is the aim of Elder Home Share, which was established in 2016 to match elderly citizens with responsible, kind, reference-checked companions seeking accommodation.

The idea for the concept came in 2013 when founder Saoirse Sheridan, then a mature student, was looking for accommodation for herself in Dublin but finding it difficult due to the high costs. Having grown up with her own granny, Ivy, at home, she thought there was potential in home sharing.

“That’s where I got the idea – wouldn’t it be great if I could help an older person in exchange for a room? But I couldn’t find any solution like that,” says Sheridan.


So, having studied entrepreneurship at college, she decided to give it a go as a business and made her first “match” in 2016.

To participate in Elder Home Share both the homeowner and home sharer pay a monthly fee of €150, although a current offer means homeowners pay just €100. There is an additional fee of €75, which the sharer pays the owner, in sought-after areas of the capital.

For this amount the sharer must commit to give 10 hours of companionship a week, and spend six or seven nights in the home. Home-share companions do not pay rent or bills.

“Companionship can mean putting the bins out, providing a secure presence at night, sharing a meal twice a week, sitting down for tea and a chat, or going for a walk,” says Sheridan. “It’s not just about coming in the door, doing your own thing, then going out again.”

Typically, the elderly people will also have care services coming in each day, so home sharing is not about providing personal care, such as helping a person shower or change bandages.

Sheridan, who has home shared herself, is clear about this.

“Definitely I know as a companion, if there wasn’t care coming into the house, I’d think twice about taking the role, it would put a heavy load on me,” she says.

Sheridan will arrange around five matches a month, with about 10-15 people from her database responding to each match. These matches are then sent to the family of the elderly person to make a decision. Once a match is chosen, Sheridan will do reference checks on the person. Elder Home Share does not have access to Garda vetting.

Once both parties are happy to proceed, they sign the Elder Home Share agreement. The document which has been reviewed by A & L Goodbody solicitors is designed to be protective of all parties outlining house rules and expectations. While Sheridan is available to help both parties with a new situation if their arrangement doesn’t work out, the home-share companion is entitled to a minimum of one months’ notice so they can find alternative accommodation.

While Ireland has a wealth of sizeable homes in which few people live, home sharing should not be seen as a wide-scale solution to housing shortages.

“I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I have solution for accommodation for younger people,” says Sheridan.

“Companions really are the chosen few,” she says, noting that it can be asking a lot of an 80 or 90 year old to share their home with a stranger.

“Like a Kinder egg”

When Mariana was looking to move to Ireland from Greece, she was keen to come to Dublin, but “it was impossible for me to find a house because the rent was really expensive, more than €600 for a room” she recalls.

So, when she heard of Elder Home Share, she saw it as a short-term solution to her problem.

Her first experience, where she shared a home with an elderly woman and another home sharer, was positive overall, but as the lady’s health deteriorated, the burden increased.

“Sometimes it’s a win-win situation, because it’s very cheap accommodation. On the other hand it’s voluntary caring,” she says.

She subsequently moved on to another placement, where the elderly person is younger and in better health.

She says home sharing can be a little like a Kinder egg, in that when you open it, it’s a surprise.

When considering the set-up, there can be challenges on both sides, says Mariana. Sometimes, families may look to take advantage.

“They shouldn’t look for a companion when they need a carer,” she says. Other times it is the companion that might be lacking.

“You may have someone at home who is supposed to offer companionship, but this person can disappear and leave the elderly person alone”.