“Do you see my glasses?” asks Diana, 80 plus, of her home-mate Rob who is easily 30 years younger. “Yup” he says as he gets them and hands them to her. There is a kindness and gentleness between them. Rob and Diana are a wonderful example of the benefit of seniors sharing housing.
How It Started
Rob moved into Diana’s house when she was recovering from hip surgery. Diana is hard of hearing, wears hearing aids, and walks with a cane. They were already friends who had known each other for twenty years. They first met when Rob worked for Diana as a landscaper. While there were other friends of Diana’s who stayed for a night or two, Rob, who was separating from his wife, needed a place to live. The arrangement continues to their mutual satisfaction.
Diana has a ranch house with a full walk-out ground floor that has a bedroom and full bath. The entrance to the house leads either to a short walk-up to the living area or a short walk-down to the ground floor, which also leads to the garage. Rob has the ground-floor room.
When the arrangement first started they spent lots of time together. Rob now is a partner in a pizza business. He works six afternoons and evenings a week.
A Nourishing Relationship
Rob says, “We already knew we were compatible in our beliefs.” Diana says, “We already had a fondness and closeness.”
Diana says, “It is nourishing to me to have Rob here, I like the exchange of ideas. We are both interested in spirituality. Rob has introduced me to Eckard Tolle and Jack Canfield.” Rob says, “We are interested in learning about ourselves through discovery of where we rub each other wrong. We don’t feel we need to protect our way of living…. we have the ability to receive observations in a gentle, understanding way. They are easy to accept because it came from the other person.”
Rob says, “We share depression in our history,” says Rob. “So we support each other, we give each other lots of space to experience moods without it being an issue. We like the relationship to be smooth and not contentious. It’s very peaceful.”
Diana says, “I like the companionship. I’ve lived alone most of my life, never known what lonely was. Always had people coming and going. I’ve liked them all. I like the fact that I can help [Rob].” She continues, “I learn other ways to do things, it helps me grow. I’m learning to not beat myself up. [Having Rob here] gives me the opportunity to be more compassionate to myself. Rob is very thoughtful, always asking how he can help.”
He says, “I try to do what I can to help, to anticipate needs. I do as much of the shopping as I can. I try to make things easier for Diana when it’s right. But I’m also careful about being too attentive. I don’t always jump to help. I don’t want to start resenting being here. It needs to be a home for me, too.”
In this interview, Rob and Diana are explicit about a benefit of sharing housing that is subtle and important.
When you live with an Other, you have the opportunity to practice the aspects of human relationship that are critical to our well-being: kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness and compassion. These qualities for both giver and receiver feel good and make life worth living.
Do you have stories about how living with another allowed you to practice these qualities and made you feel good?
Read more about making shared housing work: Can’t We Have Kindness from Our Government? , We Need to Talk
Last Updated on February 13, 2017 by Bob Sherwood
My husband & I are very interested in shared housing with those over 50 but we have been unable to connect. What are we doing wrong? All we find are 20yr old college students who don’t want live with older folk. We want to relocate to the Boston area where we lived for many years. I am a retired social worker & my husband maintained golf courses for 30 years.
Well… There’s lots of different issues for you in what you write. The first one I see is that you are a couple looking. Honestly, it’s hard to live with a couple —it throws the balance of relationships off. Much better if it’s two couples living together. Next, there needs to be reasonable private space for everyone. That can be tricky. How are you looking? Are you trying to do this long-distance?
You might consider looking into renting in a co-housing community if such a space might open up. I would be in touch with them? Google co-housing.. There are meet ups.
Craigslist is not likely to find you the right setup, methinks. Being on the ground in the Boston area to make connections would be important.
I hope that this helps.