Communal Living Environments Help with Aging Challenges
I’m not going to lie, I love “The Golden Girls.” I watch the re-runs all the time – so much so that my sons know it’s my favorite show. And while the show is really entertaining, it was also ahead of its time in setting up a living environment that makes aging in place more realistic.
My friends and I joke that if we all become widows, we’ll get a house together to age in place together. While we joke about it, it actually is a great idea. You can pull your resources to pay for maintenance and in home care. Those who are healthier can help care for those who are not as physically strong. You have constant companions and can reap many health benefits. Many aging people in the LGBT community are purchasing large homes to age in place with their friends.
If aging in place is something you’d like to explore, you should consider the possibility of aging in place in a communal living environment.
Benefits of Communal Living
- Shared Financial Resources: With more people in the household comes more financial resources. This is a huge perk when you are on a fixed income. Your buying power will go further. Things like cleaning or meal services that seemed like luxuries can become staples. With increased financial resources in the home comes more expendable income. Someone who could barely meet their household expenses independently can have extra money to travel or visit family more regularly once they move to a communal living environment.
- Shared Physical Resources: Maintaining a household can be challenging as we age. The chores keep piling up even if there is only one person in the home. When there are more people in the home, there are more hands to keep up with the house. Maybe one person hates cooking but another person hates cooking. Great! You can pick your favorite task and stick with it. Even if you all hate the same things, you can rotate the chore so no one is doing the hated task all the time. Or, if no one wants to do the work (or you are unable to do the work), you can pull your financial resources to hire help. It is also extremely helpful if one of the housemates is sick. Things won’t fall apart while you recuperate – your housemates will pick up the slack.
- Companionship: A major challenge people face in aging is loneliness. As spouses pass away and friends move away, it can be emotionally challenging. A benefit of a communal living environment in aging is that you always have a companion. There is always someone to talk to or watch a movie with. If one person is no longer able to drive, their healthier housemate can do the driving, which allows everyone the opportunity to get out of the house regularly.
- Safety: Many of my clients kept cars in their driveway even though they gave up driving years ago. The reason? They were worried that someone may think there was an elderly woman home alone and target them. If you live in a communal environment, you don’t have to fear being home alone. There is safety in numbers. There are also other eyeballs looking out for safety hazards in the home and someone who will notice if you fall in the hallway.
- Emotional Support: There are many emotional challenges that come with aging. Having friends nearby to support each other in aging can improve all of your emotional well-being. In fact, some of the negative emotional issues that come with aging may become a non-issue since you are less likely to be lonely or suffer from financial stress.
- Community: It has been proven that people who are part of a community live longer. Creating your own mini aging community can give you that same sense of belonging.
- You Can’t Chose Family, But You Can Choose Friends: The best part about having friends is that we get to pick them. Ideally, we pick people who have qualities we appreciate and admire. Aging with people who you chose to be with can help you live a better, healthier life. You also have people who share your past and know the real you, not the older you.
- It’s Just Fun!: Every year, I go on a weekend getaway with six of my closest friends. We have the best time. We talk, we laugh, we eat together and reminisce. Imagine how much fun it would be to age together with your closest friends in a communal living environment! Of course, it won’t always be fun and games, but it will still be a lot more fun than living alone.
Making Communal Living Work for You
There are a number of reasons that aging in place in a communal living environment is a good idea. The most important component to moving forward with a communal living environment is choosing the right people who will make aging together a benefit, not a hindrance.
You want to choose people who you get along with and who share the same values as you. If you are frugal and like simple meals, you don’t want to choose a friend to live with who is a big spender or who likes exotic meals. Choosing the right companions for aging together is critical, as is establishing proper ground rules.
While aging with friends in a communal living environment ala “The Golden Girls” is a great idea in theory, you really need to think it through so that you and your housemates equally benefit.
Would you ever consider a “Golden Girls” living setup?