Registry could connect North Shore seniors seeking roommates

Wanted: Roommate. Must be clean, non-smoking; Pets OK. Must also be a senior citizen.

This could be an example of a classified ad if a new seniors’ roommate registry passes muster with the Hollyburn Family Services Society.

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Hollyburn has been hosting a number of information sessions on the North Shore to weigh interest in developing a program that would connect senior homeowners with senior citizens and older adults who are seeking a place to live.

Such a program could be tremendously beneficial for North Shore seniors seeking companionship, security and a more cost effective housing situation, explained Hollyburn innovation and engagement specialist Joy Hayden.

“We know that there’s an availability and an affordability issue on the North Shore,” Hayden said.

Seniors who are reliant on the rental market, or may be residing in older housing stock that’s going to be redeveloped or relocated, represent a cross section of the seniors that Hollyburn encounters who are at risk when it comes to having a reliable and secure housing situation.

“We know that the most recent census data is showing that there is a significant incline in the number of single occupancy house owners and most of those are seniors. We’re thinking that there is the possibility of making that connection that could address immediate housing needs, rather than waiting six or seven years for some of the more affordable housing opportunities to surface.”

More than a dozen seniors and older adults were on hand at Silver Harbour Community Centre Feb. 20 to hear Hayden’s presentation on a seniors’ roommate registry and provide feedback. Dozens more have since responded to a roommate registry survey or emailed Hayden with their ideas.

The survey asks respondents a series of simple questions, such as ‘Would you consider living with a compatible roommate?’ or ‘What are your biggest concerns/fears around this concept?’

She said that so far people’s responses have been mostly in favour of the concept.

“We know this isn’t for everybody,” she said. “(But) if even one per cent go, ‘Hey, this works for me, it allows me to stay in my home – because my kids are pushing me to go into care – it gives me the companionship so I’m not isolated, it gives me a little bit of money’ … we’ve taken a big chunk out of those that are at risk that can now be in solid housing.”

If a registry were to be created, Hayden imagines it would ask homeowners and home-seekers to register and answer a highly comprehensive questionnaire in order to help seniors identify what’s important to them so a compatible match could be found. Does the homeowner want to rent out a room to another senior and share the whole house? Do they want to rent out just the suite and live separately from each other? These are the kinds of questions that might be asked.

Seniors’ roommate registries are already commonly practiced in Europe and even some parts of North America.

The Golden Girls-type living situation might be most beneficial to one’s mental health, Hayden noted.

“There’s tremendous research out there saying that the senior who’s isolated their physical well-being and their mental well-being decreases,” she said. “There’s a whole isolation factor that this can counter.”

North Vancouver resident Judi Leemhuis, 66, attended the information session at Silver Harbour and said she was most impressed with how the concept could be used as a way to build community. As an active member of her local church, she said she could see how a seniors’ roommate registry could be useful for those seeking companionship and a new living situation.

Especially since Leemhuis’s husband passed away, she said she could see herself registering for such a program if one was to be created.

“It’d be kind of fun to have somebody around that maybe has the same interests as you do or in the same age group that understands your thought pattern,” she said. “It’s very important to be around other people, it just keeps your brain fresh.”

Those with questions or are seeking more information are asked to call Joy Hayden at Hollyburn Family Services Society at 604-987-8211 ext. 223 or email jhayden@hollyburn.ca.

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