One reason that people choose to give up their homes and opt-out of aging in place is for the social interactions and human contact that group settings offer, foster, and encourage.
Many seniors themselves, and their families, decide that the opportunities to be around other people of their same relative age outweigh trying to stay in the home they are and where they may be more isolated from human contact. That does have merit, but so does remaining at home.
There might be a way to do both. Consider home sharing.
Say that someone has a home that they own. They are single – by choice or through divorce or the death of their spouse or partner. They desire some companionship but not in a romantic way.
Home sharing is like taking in a roommate – or more than one. It’s a little like a rooming house where people have chores and responsibilities as well for the upkeep and smooth running of the home.
Essentially, the owner of the home (and it could be a couple but typically is a single person) wants someone to share the home with them – and to help in meal preparation, grocery acquisition, paying the utilities, and conversation.
This is really a win-win for all parties. The home owner gets to stay in their home. They get to bring in someone to share it with them – after very careful vetting. This is a new field that can be very important to seniors that we may want to evaluate.
The roommate – or more than one – pays rent, helps purchase the groceries and run errands for the home, assists with meal preparation and cleanup, and helps to maintain the home. It’s a shared responsibility with everyone doing their part. It’s not the rent that makes this work – the home may already by owned free and clear. It’s the companionship, friendship, and participation that makes this go – having someone else to depend on and be responsible for and to look out for each other.
This idea is likely to become a trend and will need help from aging in place professionals like us to help evaluate and monitor the living space so that it remains accessible and friendly to people living in a particular space over time. It’s also going to require some market acceptance from the public and local governments to encourage and foster this.
Finding the right person or people for someone to bring into their home obviously is a huge challenge. Personal and property safety are going to factor in prominently – and physical requirements that people may have. Still, the advantages are there – economically (expense sharing), socially (having companionship), and security (having someone else in the home).
While home haring may not be for everyone as they grow older, it presents a real alternative for people who want to remain living in their forever home but may lack some of the financial resources to keep everything going as it should, to prepare meals and eat well, to enjoy someone else company in a purely social setting, and to feel responsible for someone else again.
We’re going to be hearing more about this as it catches on around the country.