How a 25-year-old and 88-year-old staved off lockdown isolation together
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How a 25-year-old and 88-year-old staved off lockdown isolation together

Kari Colmans speaks to 88-year-old Sylvia and 25-year-old Olivia, who have ensured neither were alone during the past year thanks to Homeshare Living’s innovative scheme

Sylvia and Olivia share a passion for women’s rights – and now a home
Sylvia and Olivia share a passion for women’s rights – and now a home

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match. Find me a find, catch me a catch. Although they may not be quite the pair Yente imagined, 25-year-old Liverpudlian Olivia and 88-year-old Sylvia from Willesden, north west London, are living the domestic dream.

They were brought together by Homeshare Living, a social enterprise outfit that matches older homeowners with a spare room who are looking for companionship and practical support with younger (thoroughly vetted) ‘sharers’ searching for affordable accommodation, among other things.

As we chat over Zoom, the pair enthuse about this scheme, which has the potential to benefit everyone. 

With her sight declining, and after a couple of bad falls, it was one of Sylvia’s daughters who came across Homeshare Living online after growing concerns she shouldn’t be living alone. 

For Olivia, on the other hand, it was totally by chance. Having moved to London fairly recently, she was living alone in a flat in Crouch End and feeling increasingly isolated. About to call it quits and move back north, homesharing offered her a chance to stay near London alongside someone who could make her house feel like home.  

“I was struggling to connect and was desperately seeking a companion.
I looked online… and here we are.”

While some of Sylvia’s large brood of three children, five grandchildren (and eight great-grandchildren) had their reservations, their minds were soon put to rest by Homeshare Living founder Sarah Kaye, who was there to guide and support all parties. 

“We undertake detailed checks, including thorough interviews, many character and professional references, and of course enhanced DBS police checks to ensure we can facilitate homeshare safely, and that we make the right match,”  explains Sarah.

Following an initial six-month stint last January, Olivia is back for a second stay. “I really craved that presence of someone else: that uplifting feeling when you come home from a long day at work and there’s somebody to ask how your day was. Someone to exchange words with around the dinner table.” 

While Olivia’s criteria were rather vague for a suitable match, Sylvia had more particular requirements.

25-year-old Liverpudlian Olivia and 88-year-old Sylvia from Willesden, north west London, are living the domestic dream

“I wanted someone friendly, helpful and lively. When you get to my age, your friends start dying off. I wanted somebody full of energy: full of life.”

After a year of social distancing and relentless lockdowns, loneliness has become endemic. But the two have been a lifeline for one another: “There are both old and young people that have absolutely nobody,” says Olivia. 

“With loneliness and mental health such hot topics, the greatest help is having someone to talk to. Having someone to listen, who is really available to hear what you’re saying, is everything. Homesharing is meeting in the middle for both parties: it’s a companion for the younger body as much as the older.”

The pair spend much quality time together, from reading fashion magazines, to watching films and documentaries and often spend Sunday afternoons scouring the papers for what they’re going to binge on next.

“We also keep ourselves to ourselves sometimes,” she says. “We both enjoy our own space, too.” 

The two also can’t help but get into a good debate. “Sylvia is very much head of the table here, even though it’s just me!” jokes Olivia. From politics to religion, it seems they have more to say to one another than most married couples. 

“We are both campaigners at heart,” says Sylvia with a smile. They share a passion for women’s rights and love to educate themselves and each other, through sharing their vastly different experiences. 

While Sylvia married and started a family young, and then went back to education later – getting a Master’s degree at Brunel University – Olivia is open-minded on marriage, and is currently focusing on her career as a marketing executive, although hopes to start a family one day. 

“For me, a partner in that sense is like a dessert: a luxury,” she laughs, as Sylvia smiles supportively, if not a little amusedly, next to her. “It can be nice sometimes but it’s not a necessity. I’m not always in the mood!” 

While Sylvia used to be an active campaigner and has always passionately stood up against racism and discrimination in all forms, she doesn’t have the physical energy anymore. “It makes for some great conversation though,” says Olivia. “She throws fuel on my fire and helps me turn our
words into action.”

What advice would they give to others looking to homeshare? Sylvia suggests always meeting up first under the agency’s guidance, to ensure you actually get on, as well as having your close family’s support. 

Homeshare Living’s Sarah is also keen to point out that once two people are vetted and paired, the team will always be on hand for advice and support and check in throughout the stay. 

“Just be open minded and allow a new energy to flow in,” says Olivia. “Be an optimist. Slow down. You’ll end up seeing twice as much.”

Details: www.homeshareliving.co.uk, call 020 3137 6421 or email
info@homeshareliving.co.uk

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