Thursday, July 24, 2014

Share Your House, Share Your Life


     The magazine The Week did a story last week called "Retirement: A Roommate for Your Golden Years" and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it quoted me, from a piece I did a little while ago for the U. S. News Retirement site. My story was based partly on my own experience, as well as some research I did about how this is becoming a bit of a trend.

     I believe some people here are already living this lifestyle, so maybe a few of you know some things that I don't. (As for myself, I do not live alone; I live with B. We are not related, not married, but we are romantically involved). So anyway, here's my advice:

     First there was "Three's Company," then "The Golden Girls," and now "The Big Bang Theory." What do they have in common? They present different versions of how adults who are not related, and not romantically involved, decide to share housing.

     These TV shows are comedies. And perhaps living with another person does require a ready sense of humor (like, for example, in marriage!). But more and more Baby Boomers are leaving behind the idea of living alone, in favor of living with another person. After all, we did it in college, or in the military, or at camp. So why not now? According to one estimate, there are currently about 130,000 American households where the co-habiters are aged 50 or older, and where they have no family or romantic relationship.

     Obviously, you need to be careful when picking a roommate. A close friend may not always be the best choice. It's not so important to connect emotionally, or to be able to share your feelings. It's more important to be able to share responsibilities – to complement each other rather than find yourselves in constant conflict.

     So if you can find your match, what are the advantages of living together?

     It's less expensive. As the old saying goes, two can live cheaper than one -- and three or four can live cheaper than two. For example, a two bedroom, two bath condo or apartment will typically rent for 50 percent more than a one bedroom, one bath unit in the same complex -- which translates into a 25 percent savings in rent if two people share the two bedroom. But it doesn't always work so mechanistically. Sometimes a person with little income but a nice house meets a person with no house but a decent income. The solution is obvious: The person with the income moves in and pays rent; and they both end up better off.
     
     You don't have to do all the work yourself. Whether it's mowing the lawn and shoveling snow, or doing dishes and taking out the garbage, sharing the work, like sharing expenses, puts less of a burden on everyone. The key is to divide up responsibilities equitably, according to talents and interests. One roommate likes to cook; the other does the dishes. One handles the finances; the other makes home repairs. If your talents don't mesh naturally, then switching off from week to week, or month to month, is the fair way to handle routine chores. 

     You share responsibility. It's not just the work you share, but the worry, the anxiety . . . and the simple reminders. You don't mind paying the bills, but you hate talking to the landlord? Maybe you can work out a deal with your roommate, and then you don't have to worry about it. Do you want to paint a room, buy an appliance, or can't decide what to have for dinner? It's often helpful just to be able to bounce ideas off another person. 

     You have built-in companionship. So many people come home from work or golf or their book club to an empty house, with nothing to do and no one to do it with. A roommate is someone you can hang out with and do nothing; someone to go to the movies with; or someone to leave behind if you've got other plans. And isn't it comforting to know that someone else is in the house when you hear a strange noise in the night? 

     And someone to help out if you need it. Older people in particular have worries about living alone. What if you fall, or can't remember to take your pill, or simply need help opening a jar? Having a roommate is like having a human safety net – someone who can help out with the little things; and be there in case of real trouble, even if only to call 911. 

     You will likely have more friends. There is nothing that correlates more with living a long, happy life than having good social connections and a supportive circle of friends. Don't spend Christmas or Thanksgiving alone. Don't sit there by yourself watching TV on Saturday night. Spend the time with your roommate, your mutual friends and each other's family members. Share your lives, as well as your living quarters, and you will have a richer, more fulfilling life.

     If you're interested, you can find various organizations that will help you locate shared housing options at the National Shared Housing Resource Center.


15 comments:

DJan said...

Interesting, Tom. I live with my husband, but he seems rather like a chosen roommate, since we do all the things you mention, but we also live our own separate lives. He likes solitude, I like social gatherings, so I have mine outside of the home without him. I cannot imagine my life alone, hence my blog universe of friends, too. You are part of it, and I'm glad you write here; I learn a lot from you.

Olga Hebert said...

I have a temporary housemate in my son for the summer. His training schedule is such that it is very much like living alone except I get my lawn mowed and someone to talk to over shared dinners. It has been a very easy relationship--SO much better than the teen years!--but I am not sure I would be able to share my house with very many others. Definitely would have to take a Meyers-Briggs as part of the process.

gigihawaii said...

I like being married as opposed to having a female roommate. A man is easier to get along with.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I stopped being romantically involved in 2010. He thought he could stave off old age by becoming involved with a woman half his age. I just left and went to live alone somewhere else (as I filed for divorce).
As what always happens, his December/May romance fizzled and his realization that he made a complete fool of himself forced him to come crawling back to me, one day before he was going to be served with papers. He was almost broke. I still had plenty of money.
We both realized, however, it was cheaper and better if we both lived together. And we did/do. BUT, we have never resumed our romance and we basically live together as two extremely good friends.
As for a wondering eye: emblazoned across his forehead is 'Never Again'. Way too expensive, I suppose.

Stephen Hayes said...

I remember my parents talking about rooming and boarding houses when they were first married. I'm told that during WWII and shortly afterwards these were popular. Seems there's an ever growing need for senior group living.

Friko said...

I think sharing accommodation in later years is a very good idea. There have been such schemes here too.

I still would prefer to have my own bed/sitting/bathroom; I don’t like sharing 24 hours of every day.

But all of your points make great sense.

Pam said...

I learned about the challenges of growing older as my parents aged, then passed on. Most of us benefit from being part of a close-knit community. My parents went from being very independent, to sweet, but needy senior citizens, living in a condo full of folks who were facing similar challenges. The residents watched out for one another, shared meals, played games, and visited often. There's no doubt in my mind that my parents transition from this life to the next was blessed by their network of friends.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

I suppose each generation has it's own approach to living arrangements. However, I worked with household composition information while employed by the Census Bureau, so have a perspective based on experience, and can inform you that there's nothing new under the sun. Many humans like living alone,, even today. Always have, probably always will.

Gabbygeezer said...

As we proceed with remodeling, we're doing the lower level of our home so it easily could be converted to separate living quarters. We've discussed the possibility of a roommate, or even renter, when one of us dies. We hope to have the house ready for that if fate makes it desirable.

Anonymous said...

my brother in law lost his wife for all pratical purposes could never marry she had Muscular Dystrophy and she got ss benefits for the disabled and federal benefits so they lived like man and wife in a stat that considers two people of the opposite sex living together married, after she died he got served with tons of bills she rang up on her bank of America visa card, he fought them never paid one damn dime and is happy he fought them..He lives with another gal it only took 11 years to find her and everything is separate but he is a co-dependent person with ptsd and works everyday and likes it that way, I live in a state that has same sex marriage and I say live and let live, it is too damn expensive to live by oneself even if one enjoys their solitutde, it costs less to cook for two and eating together eases the age old ailments and is safer...If something happens to my hubs or me we are married 40 plus years I am sure my hubs would plan to live with another Marry probably not but companionship is vital to living!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

My brother in law called happy as a clam with a new Woman as he referenced, he works and is eccentric but it took him a long time to find a woman he enjoys, she has her own place and when they get into arguments she retreats to her lovely home..He likes it that way and she too..He is checked upon by her daily if they are together fine, if apart fine..I say who cares? One cannot judge others at all he had a rough patch after his wife died he never thought she would proceed him, really with MD? but he met someone to be with and he is happy, that is all that matters.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

My brother in law called happy as a clam with a new Woman as he referenced, he works and is eccentric but it took him a long time to find a woman he enjoys, she has her own place and when they get into arguments she retreats to her lovely home..He likes it that way and she too..He is checked upon by her daily if they are together fine, if apart fine..I say who cares? One cannot judge others at all he had a rough patch after his wife died he never thought she would proceed him, really with MD? but he met someone to be with and he is happy, that is all that matters.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

My brother in law called happy as a clam with a new Woman as he referenced, he works and is eccentric but it took him a long time to find a woman he enjoys, she has her own place and when they get into arguments she retreats to her lovely home..He likes it that way and she too..He is checked upon by her daily if they are together fine, if apart fine..I say who cares? One cannot judge others at all he had a rough patch after his wife died he never thought she would proceed him, really with MD? but he met someone to be with and he is happy, that is all that matters.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Autolycus said...

There's a lot of interest in this as a means of intergenerational help, with so many younger people simply not able to afford to get on the housing market ladder here in the UK, and for other social reasons on the Continent.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/02/germany-multigeneration-house-solve-problems-britain

Anonymous said...

in my hippie youth I lived in about 26 share housing arrangements - one in particular (my house) with two relaxed brothers - I didn't like to cook, but one of them liked to cook and would invite anybody over -

we had an average of 10 people for dinner every night of the week - he'd just boil up a big pot of potatoes and pumpkin, cost virtually nothing - he hated washing up, I didn't mind washing up - so he'd cook, I'd wash, everyone was happy - and I had a great social life brought to me !