How many times, as young adults, did we joke with a friend about hanging out until we were old? I know I've done that with a friend... if her husband and mine both go before we do, we'll move in together and conquer the world ourselves. All joking aside, more and more seniors have chosen this path as the way to go. It's called Aging in Cohousing, and the classic TV show "The Golden Girls" showed exactly how it can work.
What is Aging in Cohousing?
When seniors (particularly those who are not related to one another) decide to move in together to share life and expenses, we call it aging in cohousing. One article described it as "college-style living, minus the keg stands." Sounds fun, right? But there are more advantages to this style of living than just fun. Let's explore some reasons why this may be the perfect solution for you or your senior loved one.
Reason 1: Loneliness
With the recent pandemic causing people, particularly seniors, to feel isolated during quarantine, many seniors and their families now realize that having a roommate around all the time can help prevent this problem. Since you and your roommate live in the same household, you would quarantine together and be able to keep each other company. If the person gets on your nerves, you can always go to your own space and close the door for some alone time. Even in normal times, apart from quarantine, you would have others around to stave off loneliness.
Reason 2: Finances
You or your senior loved one may be at a point where living alone is no longer safe but a long-term facility is not yet necessary. Since facilities cost so much, aging in cohousing can save money while providing a safer alternative to living alone. Most of the time, you and your roommate split expenses you already paid where you lived before, causing you to pay less. This allows you to save money for if you come to the point where you need to live in a facility with a higher level of care.
Reason 3: Physical and Cognitive Health
In the same article referenced above, a gentlemen who works to foster community for seniors commented, "We reserve isolation for our worst criminals." Yet so many seniors in long-term care facilities experience nothing but isolation. They spend so much time alone in their rooms that their physical and cognitive health suffers as a result.
When you have a community of friends aging in cohousing, you tend to participate in life together. These activities keep the body and mind active, allowing for better all around health. Housemates can encourage one another to get out and do things or even have activities at home. An active body and mind is a much healthier body and mind.
Reason 4: Independence
Seniors have a hard time surrendering their independence, and with good reason. Sharing a house in retirement allows them to cling to that feeling that they don't have to rely on others as much. If even one of the residents is able to drive, all housemates feel less like they have to rely on family for every little thing. In short, they feel as though they still have their own lives.
Reason 5: Safety
There's an old saying that there's safety in numbers. Safety remains one of the top reasons people must move out of their homes into a different situation. When seniors share living arrangements, safety becomes less of a factor. In case of an accident or emergency, someone is always there, even if only to call for help. You don't have to worry about your senior falling and staying that way for an extended period of time before someone finds them.
Reason 6: Extended Family
Lastly, when seniors share living arrangements, it extends their families. What does that mean? Your roommates' families become your family, too. On one hand, you benefit when anyone's family come to visit. It's almost like you all have more grandchildren, and they get to have more grandparents! On the other hand, this provides more resources to help in emergencies or to run errands. I know that if my parents lived in this kind of situation and I ran errands for them, I would certainly be happy to address the needs of others in the house, as well. In situations like the pandemic, families could rotate grocery shopping and other errands for the safety of all in the house.
Aging in Cohousing Experience
Do you know of anyone who successfully shares housing with friends in their retirement years? We'd love to hear your experiences! If you think you're ready to try doing this with yourself or a loved one, we found a great starter's guide for a Golden Girls home to get you going. You can tell us all about it in the comments or over on our Facebook page. We can't wait to hear about it!