How are You Really Feeling?

In last week’s blog, I introduced some of the benefits of senior shared housing. This week, I want to focus in on one particular area that often gets overlooked: state of mind as well as wallet.

Many baby boomers who never thought they’d want a roommate have changed their minds due to finances — and then discovered that the companionship provided by having someone else in the house has brought benefits they never imagined. Older adults sharing living spaces don’t necessarily become best friends, but it’s nice to have someone to do some of the house chores, yard work — or even walking the dog every now and then. 

Social Isolation and Loneliness Leads to Health Issues

Research from the National Institute on Aging has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. This is particularly true in older adults who have unexpectedly or recently lost a loved one.

Currently, 27 percent of all older adults (over 60) live by themselves — that’s around 14 million seniors aging alone. Combined with married or partnered couples living a distance from loved ones (e.g., in a different state or country), or without close friends and family members, the number of seniors susceptible to social isolation or loneliness increases. In fact, A Place for Mom cites a recent study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science showing that loneliness can be as deadly as smoking or obesity.

Good News: Alone ≠ Loneliness

Living alone is a badge of courage for many. It is a statement that one is independent and capable of managing their life and affairs. It is a point of pride and should be appreciated and celebrated as such. With this as the foundational or default assumption, the task is to find approaches and tools which facilitate safe, independent living opportunities for aging in place. How to respect privacy and provide easy check-ins by others is the balance that must be struck. 

Addressing Demand, One Unit at a Time

The demand for affordable housing units far outstrips the supply in almost every U.S. community today. Publicly assisted rental complexes and mature living subdivisions for those over 55 years old are being absorbed as quickly as they come on the market. Encouraging are the efforts being made by individuals and families to address this housing need. Here are three initiatives to note:

  • Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs) — Legislation and zoning ordinances are being modified particularly in communities with severe housing shortages. These communities are allowing owners to have two dwellings on one house lot. It creates the opportunity for aging parents to have an affordable home near family; to retain privacy and independence with a little back-up support when needed. Tiny houses, like those offered by Boxabl — and similar to the one Elon Musk recently moved to as his primary residence — can be an efficient and adaptable unit for many families to consider. 
  • Co-Housing — Think several individuals and/or couples coming together to build an intentional community, one where there are shared common areas and caretaking responsibilities but also personal private spaces. These communal arrangements with small private houses create what are more affordable homes for the community members due to shared facilities. Here’s a good overview of Co-Housing.
  • Airbnb Hosting — Back into the idea of home sharing by starting with renting an extra room to short-term visitors — by either hosting guests in rented homes, or renting a room no longer used. Care must be taken in structuring the arrangements, advertising availability and coordinating cleaning. It is a way to try out sharing, learn what boundaries must be defined, and repurpose unused space now that children have moved out. Working carefully with a laid out blueprint — such as the one I have used — means that this can be done safely and profitably. 

Senior shared housing is a viable option for adding quality and richness to Third Chapter Living. It has the capacity to improve communities and health outcomes of its residents. Well worth a second consideration.

Third Chapter Living celebrates, challenges, informs and promotes conversations about housing issues affecting the Baby Boomer Generation. Check out our website (https://seniorhousinghunt.com/) to learn more about our work. Our Facebook Group (https://seniorhousinghunt.com/request-group) is a resource center with tips and recommendations on navigating those issues. Share experiences with others who are looking for Housing Downsizing Tools that allow them to successfully age in place. Become a part of the group (https://seniorhousinghunt.com/request-group).

1 Comments

  1. Kathryn Warren on July 19, 2022 at 9:14 pm

    Good read and something I and my friends have thought about.

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