Ramey had to learn to get out of her own way. A long-time mediator who likes her solitude, she really wasn’t too sure about having someone around on her property. While not “exactly reclusive,” she wasn’t interested in forced socializing over a cup of coffee every day. She wanted a balance of self-reliance and some social interaction. Ramey had a good sense of her own needs and preferences, and knew what to look for in a housemate. She also had the idea that she might be able to benefit as a senior sharing housing.
Seven years ago, she bought a house in the country for her retirement with the intention of remodeling and then renting out a small apartment that is connected to a large garage. She created a one-bedroom, one-bath, 450-square-feet apartment with a kitchenette. Officially, this type of arrangement is called an Accessory Dwelling Unit. Her house is also small, 1,000 square feet, with two bedrooms and one bathroom. She says, the property is “six miles away from anything.”
When the apartment was ready, she started getting the word out by telling everyone she knew. It was her bank teller who suggested she put the apartment on Zillow. Within minutes, she got emails and phone calls. Four people came to look at it. For three of them it wasn’t a good fit, but for the person who moved in it was perfect.
In fact, B-D, who moved in, was told about the ad by two other people who saw it and thought it was an answer for her. B-D was leaving a long-term relationship and Ramey’s apartment made it possible for B-D to stay in the community, which is her home and a reasonable commute to her job.
Both buildings are one floor. Ramey moved the washer and dryer into the garage so that they both have access. They’ve fallen into a pattern where Ramey does her laundry on Saturday and there’s no conflict. Each dwelling has its own water heater. B-D’s apartment has a kitchenette with two burners and a convection microwave. Ramey has invited her to use the kitchen in the house should she want to cook anything more substantial.
There’s a hot tub in the back yard that is available to both of them.
Peace of Mind
When I interviewed Ramey, she had just had cataract surgery. Because of the surgery her schedule was off. She got a text message from B-D who noticed and asked, “Are you okay?” Ramey says, “That’s huge!.. It gives me peace of mind. I have two friends who fell off their roofs in the last year. It dawned on me that if I had an accident, who would find me? Having B-D here means that I would be found.”
The income Ramey receives is very welcome. It was factored into her plans for retirement. Ramey says, “as each month passes and I receive a rent check, it reinforces my confidence that remodeling the apartment was a good idea financially. The investment is already paying for itself.”
Obviously, this is the ‘independent living’ phase of my life as I move into my seventies, since I’m still working full time and able to take care of the property, my dogs, and myself. If at some point I need help with ADLs (activities of daily living), having the apartment gives me three options: 1) I could move into the apartment and offer the house rent-free to a live-in caregiver, or 2) I could remain in the house and offer the apartment to a live-there caregiver, or 3) I could offer the master bedroom in the main house to a live-in caregiver, occupy the smaller bedroom myself, and continue to rent the apartment for income. This would enable me to enter the “assisted living” category and still remain in my house. That would be a huge cost saving later in life and ensure live-in companionship.”
Denial of Aging
Ramey observes how many of her friends who are used to doing all the work of their independent living are very dismayed by discovering that “lo and behold, they can’t do it anymore.” For instance, chopping and splitting wood. Their lifestyles are “predicated on the assumption that they can go on living in the same manner they have until they drop dead.” These people also have lots of reasons they use to convince themselves that they can’t move or change their lives. Clearly Ramey is looking at aging with her eyes wide-open.
Get Out of My Own Way
Ramey had deep misgivings and a lot of resistance to sharing her space. In fact, if B-D hadn’t agreed to move in she had decided she’d move into the apartment herself, so she could do a remodel job on the main house. What she sees now is that her resistance was preventing the right person from appearing.
As Ramey gets to know B-D, who has been resident for all of two months, she is astonished by how many common interests they have—from a deep meditation practice to sensitivity to nature to concerns about racial and social justice. She’s appreciative that B-D honors that natural integrity of the space.
For Ramey, the moral is to set aside misgivings and trust that the universe will provide a terrific match.
In a recent conversation with B-D, Ramey heard how much B-D loves living there and how appreciative of the opportunity to live in a peaceful, safe space. Ramey says, “While I was dealing with all of my own resistance to the idea of someone living ‘in my space,’ I had not considered the benefit that living there would provide to someone who rented it. Generosity and gratitude seem to be the companions of openness to change.”
You Can Do This
Asked what she would say to you the reader: “Absolutely, you can do this. We have unlimited possibilities if we don’t talk ourselves out of them.”
Does Ramey’s story resonate with you? Have you ever overcome resistance to an idea and discovered it was exactly the right thing for you? Can you trust the universe?
Read more about how living in shared housing can benefit you: Why Wait Until I’m Old? Living in Multi-Generational Housing Now , When Heartbreak led to Home Sharing Heaven, The Resistance of Older Householders.