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Companion housing project a winner for senior citizens and students


Zoe Satherley
17 January 2007
Older people living alone who want to remain in their homes longer – but just need a little bit of extra support – will benefit from a joint scheme between Southern Cross University and DAISI (the Lismore-based Disability & Aged Information Service Inc).

Southern Cross University has signed off on an undertaking to work in partnership to match older citizens with live-in student helpers under DAISI’s Companion Housing Project.

Under the innovative pilot project, carefully screened and selected individuals will be matched to provide a win-win solution to meet the needs of both groups.

Carl Rallings, Southern Cross University Group Director, Student Services, said similar home sharing programs operate in many countries and in other parts of Australia. These have demonstrated that the companionship of these arrangements increase feelings of security and connection to the community for both parties.

They enhance well being and reduce the personal isolation often experienced both in older age groups and for out of town or overseas students unfamiliar with the local community, he said.

A big problem facing many independent and healthy older citizens, who would love to remain in their own homes for as long as possible before entering institutionalised care, is that they might need some help with things like household jobs, shopping, gardening, or meal preparation to make their life a little easier, said Companion Housing Project Coordinator Virginia Clarke.

“Even just having some occasional companionship or the security of having someone around at night can make a big difference to staying longer in your own home,” she said.

“Moving into care before it is desired or medically necessary is not what most older people want. Also, there are already long waiting lists at the region’s nursing and retirement homes and it is difficult to find places even for those in desperate need.

“At the same time another problem is the chronic shortage of affordable housing in the Lismore area, and students can sometimes find it difficult to find accommodation.

“Our scheme will offer older citizens a live-in responsible and caring student helper who will provide 10 hours of negotiated support each week in return for free rent. The students will pay for all of their other expenses like food, telephone and electricity.

“In return, the students will enjoy free accommodation and friendship in a secure and comfortable home.”

All participants in the project are interviewed in depth and students are security screened. Each match is carefully selected and Virginia assists both parties in setting up their own particular home sharing agreement. Virginia is then available for ongoing support to ensure the match runs smoothly.

Anyone who is interested in finding out about this new service or participating in a trial to see if this kind of arrangement would suit them can find all the information on the web site or can contact Virginia on 1800 800 340.

Photo: Carl Rallings, Group Director, Student Services, welcomes the new Companion Housing Project.