Home Living Homesharing Opens the Door to Aging in Place

Homesharing Opens the Door to Aging in Place

Photo from Vecteezy.
By Kelly Stoddard Poor

Homesharing, at its core, is about two people helping each other.

HomeShare Vermont facilitates matches of hosts and guests, meeting the unique needs and interests of the people involved to create a compatible match. When two or more people share a home, there are mutual and long-term life benefits that can be realized at both the individual and community levels.

In the past year, HomeShare Vermont has helped 224 people find housing or share their home. People are surprised that the hosts range in age from 27 to 98, and guests from 22 to 81 years old.

Working with a wide range of ages, professions, and (continually expanding) geographic locations, HomeShare Vermont has the opportunity to help foster real relationships — intergenerational friendships — and an improved quality of living through affordable and compatible living arrangements.

Most importantly for older adults, homesharing offers the opportunity to age in place. By 2030, our nation will face a severe shortage of accessible and affordable housing to meet the needs of the one in five Americans who will be over the age of 65 in our country.

Americans are living longer than ever, and most hope to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible. However, there has been a lack of preparation by developers and policymakers to ensure that the nation’s housing stock meets the needs of people at all stages of life. This mismatch puts millions of individuals at risk of limited or no access to housing that meets their needs or preferences as they age. A recent article in The New York Times reporting on Vermont’s employee shortages noted that “more than a fifth of Vermonters are 65 or older” further highlighting the state’s aging demographic. Homesharing is one solution that can forestall or prevent a move to an assisted living facility and allow residents to age in place as their needs change.

In 2020, it was estimated that 80.5% of Vermont’s homeowners were above the age of 65. The 2022 annual survey by AARP Vermont found an increased interest in homesharing and applications to HomeShare Vermont — from all ages — skyrocketed by 35%. Clearly, this is a way of living that people are ready to explore. 

HomeShare Vermont conducts an in-depth screening process including six background checks and a minimum of four applicant references. After hosts and guests are introduced, they do a two-week trial match. The process is much different than seeking a housemate on one’s own. Creating the perfect match is at the heart of the organization, as it ensures compatibility, safety, and, ultimately, benefits for all homesharing participants. People choose to be paired together based on their answers to a detailed survey about lifestyle, interests, hobbies, and points of view and input from their references. Rent, chores, or a combination are agreed upon, too, to ensure the best fit for both involved.

While each match or living arrangement is unique, homesharing benefits hosts and guests in profound ways, something that has been greatly tested in the community through this year’s catastrophic weather events, social issues, and much more. It addresses the pressing issue of available and affordable housing options and can create wonderful, otherwise unexpected, connections and a sense of community.

The financial relief provided by shared housing can empower all participants. For young adults it allows them to allocate resources towards education, skill development, career growth, and, eventually, a home of their own, contributing to their long-term success. For older adults, they can stay in their homes as they age, and even receive upkeep around the house as needed.

Homesharing not only opens the door to keeping people aging in place. It is an entry into living with someone who has a different life experience that can facilitate the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and perspectives between people and generations, creating a supportive environment where both parties can learn from each other.

Kelly Stoddard Poor lives in Montpelier and is the associate state director of AARP Vermont and a HomeShare Vermont Board Member.