Launched in May 2012, Independence Matters was a Design Challenge run in partnership with Innovate UK (formerly Technology Strategy Board) to develop services that promote independence in later life. One of seven inspiring start-ups funded through the challenge, Room for Tea is a new kind of home-sharing network.

The problem 

Research shows that over a third of unpaid interns working in London are unable to live at home free of charge or afford to pay rent. Many older adults experiencing social isolation have spare rooms in their homes that are unused. Room for Tea benefits and connects these two groups. 

The solution

It was a pleasure having Natalie around – we spent a good deal of time chatting. She now knows who Engelbert Humperdinck is, and I understand a bit more about collaborative consumption!

Mike, Natalie's host in Enfield

Room for Tea is a new kind of home-sharing network that connects interns in need of short-term, affordable accommodation in London with older hosts who have spare rooms in their homes.

The service provides affordable accommodation for young people undertaking short-term work placements, helping them as they work toward pursuing their dream careers. It’s also a simple and hassle-free way for older hosts to put their spare rooms to good use. Older hosts using the service benefit from additional income and the opportunity to share their home with someone, on a flexible basis to suit their needs.

Once a host is registered and verified, an online profile is created that can be viewed by guests who have signed up to Room for Tea. All guests are verified by Room for Tea through reference checks. Hosts and potential guests can get in touch via Skype, and if both parties are happy, a match is then made. Guests and hosts are encouraged to share their hobbies and interests with each other.

The results

Developed by FutureGov and The Settlement, Room for Tea has over 1,000 guests registered so far and 60 active hosts. In total 120 matches (between host and guest) - and counting - have been made since the service began.

Room for Tea regularly collects feedback from existing hosts to improve and evolve the service. In terms of social connectedness, hosts have valued the positive experience of welcoming and learning from new people across generations.

Visit roomfortea.com
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