Roommates Help Older Adults Age in Place

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The one thing we can't seem to hold back is aging. We might try. Some try hard…with plastic surgery, eating right, etc. However, aging keeps moving forward, at least by chronological terms. We know that people are living much longer now, too. It's not unusual for people to reach their 90s and above. That brings many concerns, but especially financial ones.

My name is Dina. About three years ago, when I was 64, I moved in with my friend Ann, a 65-year-old breast cancer survivor, as a way to save money and have some fun. Here's our story:

We met in a small study group for a personal development course we were both taking. Ann was living in her own apartment in New York City (NYC) and was in a pickle because the person she was renting from wanted the apartment back.

Finding and being approved for apartments is a major issue in NYC. Since Ann is self-employed, proving that she had "enough" income to afford an apartment was difficult. She wasn't sure she could stay in NYC. She'd only moved there five years before, at age 60, from Austin, TX for a new "adventure" after her divorce.

When Ann spoke of her situation in the group, I all of a sudden had a notion that, perhaps, we could apartment-share. I had moved back to New York a couple of years before to be closer to my aging parents. I had been living upstate, was widowed, and was living in a rather expensive apartment.

Ann was unsure. Actually, I was too: what if I had talked to Ann about it before she was certain it was the right move for her? Neither of us had shared our personal space since being married. But the apartment was perfect—a two-bedroom, two-bath, with a huge living area in between. It offered much privacy, which would be important since we both worked from home.

After some deep conversations, we agreed to give it a try. That was nearly three years ago—it's been a "match made in heaven" ever since. We love the companionship, the fun and the safety of having someone else there. We've found deep friendship as well.

Now, you might be wondering…how is this relevant to aging parents and their caregivers?

Not all parents age in the same way. Some are quite capable of caring for themselves and want to hold onto their own homes. They might long for that full social life they've always had, or maybe they're concerned about some health issues. Perhaps their children live far away. Apartment or home sharing is the perfect, logical solution for all that.

Are there issues to consider? Of course. We'll continue to write about these for you in the future. Right now, here's the most important tip for people who want to find a housemate—or, as we like to call it, a "flatmate" —have a serious conversation about the situation. Tell each other about your habits, your desires and your concerns. See if you have some commonalities and shared values. If it feels right, maybe you're ready to give it a try.

Ann and I are lucky. We don't argue; we're similar in terms of our housekeeping; we respect each other's boundaries.

Having a flatmate isn't for everyone. Reasonably good health is necessary to avoid turning a partnership into a caretaking situation. We have both had some health scares and have been there for each other in a helpful way, to get to a hospital or doctor visit, or even to the pharmacy and grocery store.

We like to think we are at the "low" side of senior; we're both vital, working and committed to doing great things in the world. I'm writing my second book. Ann consults and travels to her clients. We have no intention of retiring, but, surely, we both know that there's no way of knowing what is next.

Ann Fry lives in Austin, TX. She works as an executive coach and consultant in companies, speaking to audiences when asked. She is an aging baby boomer, an advocate for living, being resilient and thriving.

Visit Ann Fry's website

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10 Comments

I think the show "The Golden Girls" was ahead of its time. The idea of sharing households is a discussion I have had with more than a few of my friends. Although still married (my husband is 16 years older than me), I have a few who are already on their own. I think we will see this happening a lot more as people seek emotional and financial support.
I LOVE this idea! Congratulations on taking this leap...and it's fabulous that it is working out for you.
Well written and I'm so glad it's working out for you both! You touched on an extremely important subject of people-helping-people! We're living in a society that needs to accept that it takes people to share room and board (like it used to be), not only for monetary reasons but for quality of life. It's healthy for everyone around. A win-win situation. Congratulations! Enjoy Life!