New research into share housing in older age: tell us about your experience. Dr Sophia Maalsen is conducting research for the University of Sydney on older people's experience with share housing and the use of technology in the home. She's invited Seniors Housing Online to participate in this study, which will assist with policy and planning around these housing and urban development issues.
Dr Maalsen writes:
"Share housing is increasingly common as people are excluded from home ownership due to an increasingly unaffordable housing market. Once considered a transitional form of housing for those fresh out of change, share housing is playing a larger role in people’s housing careers with many sharing well beyond their student days. This includes older people who may have been homeowners previously and are now finding themselves in a situation where they have to rent, and increasingly, share accommodation. This is unsurprising as it is predicted that the number of middle-aged and older private tenants will double in the next 15 years (Wood et al 2017) and we can assume that this will include those who are sharing housing. Such a trend has serious implications for governance in a nation where much retirement policy links home ownership as key to a financially healthy old age.
Seniors sharing housing isn’t just an Australian phenomenon. In the UK, flatshare site SpareRoom released data that showed the amount of middle-aged flatsharers aged 35 to 44 increased by 186% between 2009 and 2014, while the 45-54 age group rose 300% (Collinson 2015). The site revealed that 100 000 of their clients are in their 40s and early 50s, while an additional 35 000 are in their late 50s to early 60s (Anderson 2016). Similar trends are also reported in Ireland.
Share housing isn’t necessarily a negative thing though, nor is it necessarily new. Indeed, the growth in home ownership is a post-war phenomenon and as such is a relatively recent view of what home is. There are many benefits associated with shared living including social, environmental and financial sustainability. The benefits of community have long been reported and there is much to be valued in the sharing of resources.
Simultaneously, there is an increasing use of ‘smart’ technologies that influence people’s access to and experience of housing. This includes flatmate finding and accommodation sites, such as SeniorsHousingOnline.com.au and SeniorFlatmates.com.au. Within the home, new technologies are influencing the way we experience and manage the household. This can be as simple as smartphone and tablet apps, health trackers, and finance apps, to the more complex automated security systems, smart appliances and smart house hubs such as Amazon Alexa and Echo, Google Smart Home and Telstra Smart home. These offer both positives and negatives for older people at home.
Despite the increasing number of people living in share houses either returning to share house living or entering it for the first time, we know relatively little about it. We have only a small insight into people’s experience of share housing and how their experience is influenced by technology."
Researchers at the University of Sydney are trying to find out more. Dr Sophia Maalsen wants to learn about older people’s experience of share housing and also the way they use technology in the home. To help her find out more, she is conducted a survey and is very interested in talking to older adults who have experience with share housing, or who would consider share housing.
Sophia herself has been share housing for well over a decade and is familiar with the trials, tribulations and benefits of this type of accommodation. Importantly, her research will contribute to better understanding the housing needs and experiences of older people, and the potential of technology to alleviate (or accentuate) the housing challenges of current housing markets contexts.
The research has implications for policy and speaks to important urban planning and housing debates.
If you would like to participate in this research, please click on the link below to take the survey.
If you would like to ask Sophia any questions about the research, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.