The rental accommodation crisis in Ireland is growing. All age groups are affected. Saoirse Sheridan’s new business, Elder Home Share, aims to help people who need accommodation and elderly people who want some company and safety.
Saoirse Sheridan is on a mission. There’s no other way to describe it. Talking to her one gets the immediate sense that her business model is rooted in social change. Ireland’s housing crisis is taking an enormous toll on people while Ireland’s health system just can’t look after a growing, ageing population – two situations that need creative intervention.
“The idea for Elderhomeshare.ie came from my personal experience,” explains Sheridan.
“Three and a half years ago I was given the notice to move out of my rented accommodation. I found I had nowhere to go. The rents are insane. I started to think about my grandmother. I had taken care of her in her home. We had such a rich and meaningful relationship, right to the end. It was a wonderful experience. So I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could help another elderly person, living on their own, in exchange for accommodation?”
Sheridan started home sharing with David in April 2016 and celebrated his 98th birthday with him in January 2018. During this time she also began building her business.
Both sides benefit
“There are many benefits that my business brings. It’s Dublin’s first home share service and provides peace of mind for elderly citizens to live at home by matching them with home share companions,” says Sheridan.
“It’s also alternative home support for the elderly and can work well instead of paying for live-in care at night if the homeowner does not need night time assistance. It’s not a solution to personal care but can reduce the need and expense of other care services.”
Anyone with half an eye on the future and the present can see that this service has significant potential.
“In Ireland alone, there are over 270,000 people over the age of 75 living alone. In the UK that number of people is 2.2 million. The same in France,” says Sheridan.
Talking with Sheridan, it is also clear that her ambition is global rather than just national.
“Very much so. I want to automate the process on a platform, and that’s what I’m building at the moment, version 2.0 of my idea. I want to automate the process of connecting people using a platform.”
The costs involved are not substantial for the homeowner or the sharer.
“The annual fee for the service for the homeowner is €950. The placement fee to be paid to Elderhomeshare is €450. The monthly contribution in exchange for quality time and help at home (average eight no more than ten hours a week) is usually €150 euro per month with no other bills.”
For a city like Dublin, this is very inexpensive accommodation.
“I home shared myself, so I know what it’s like,” explains Sheridan. “I believe that a commitment of about eight hours a week suits both the homeowner and the sharer. Having someone there at night is also a great comfort for the elderly person.”
Growing the business
“Certain expectations go with renting a room through Elderhomeshare. However, your personal space and privacy remain your own,” says Sheridan.
Having completed the Female High Flyers programme at the Ryan Academy in DCU, Sheridan is now raising more funding and development support for her social enterprise.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” she says. “Dublin is such a wonderful place to live, and there are so many supports for startups. I want to build this and scale it. The need is there, the market is there.”
What the home share companions say
“Home sharing with Anthony was an amazing opportunity for growth, in the wonderful form of supporting someone daily who quickly became a friend. It helped me on personal, financial and educational levels and propelled me in many ways to where I am today,” says William Stapleton.
“I’ve come to realise that the smallest things and gestures are so impactful in people’s lives, and home sharing has definitely provided that platform,” says Christanah Itunu Adebomi.