There is a resistance in older householders to the idea of sharing housing, even though there are many benefits to sharing housing as a senior. In part this is a generational difference. The folks who came of age in the late 60’s and after, are more comfortable with the idea that the World War II generation. This makes sense. The WWII generation came of age when marriage, four-children families, and a stay-at-home mom were the norm.
Before the Boomers
These folks, now in their eighties (more or less) just have a harder time imagining how it would be to have someone, not a family member, live with them. They simply didn’t have any experience of group homes in their formative years. And yet maybe this elderly person needs the informal social exchange that I think is so valuable in sharing housing.
How important is it to have someone to say “good morning,” “good night,” and “how was your day?” I think it can be very important.
I remember my elderly great aunt who lived in a big house in Washington DC by herself. She had no social life, all her friends had died. She talked daily with her sister, my grandmother, who lived in New York City. My aunt managed her loneliness by drinking. She would start in the late afternoon. I wonder how different it would have been for her if she had shared her house so that there was life in it.
Social Service Programs
There are programs for matching seniors with younger people who offer work in exchange for rent. These programs are few and far between. And they are hard to set up – in part because the elderly are resistant to sharing their homes.
One way to help people see themselves in a sharing relationship is to hear stories about others who are sharing housing, the good stories of successful house sharing relationships. That’s why we have a whole section on this website called “Real People Sharing Housing.” There are all sorts of different arrangements: from people making space out of the goodness of their hearts to stories of resistance that was overcome.
Do you have a story? We’d love to hear it. Comment below or be in touch to be interviewed.