When it was clear that my father could no longer live alone, I found myself, by virtue of being the child who lived closest to him, in the position of having to encourage him to consider living in a retirement facility. At first he was resistant. He did not want to live with a bunch of strangers, eating in an institutional dining room. The way I talked him into considering it was to compare it to living in a college dorm. “Dad, you did this when you were attending college. It is the same concept.”
Just recently, I read an article about a new trend among aging single women. Four or five ban together à la Golden Girls in a group house. More than any previous generation, boomers are single, either because they never married, they are divorced, they are part of the LGBT grouping, or they are widowed. A larger number of aging people are women (57 percent make up the grouping 65 and older and 67 percent make up the group of 85 and older).
I know several women who share a home. It is not always as easy as it may seem. My friends told me that when they first moved in together, they all went about their own business. They did not even sit down to dinner together. But then one of the women needed to take care of her father and the household opted to allow him to move in with her. This decision made their house become a home, as they all found themselves pitching in to help. Although the father has since passed away, the pattern of doing things together within the household has remained. And the women are very happy about this.
One structure that makes a marriage a marriage and a family a family is sharing meals. Another structure is that everyone in the household pitches in to maintain the home. Having and/or developing mutual interests also makes up a structure of a family. These factors would seem important in the formation of a group home.
I like the idea. I sit here in a house that has become too large for me — too empty. I like the socialization that comes with sitting around a dinner table. I always enjoyed doing things with my husband. Presently, upkeep of home keeps me fairly busy. It would be nice to share those tasks with someone else. Although I keep busy with many different projects and have an active social life, coming home to someone has a very different feel.
Of course, one does have to consider that illness may settle on one or two or maybe even three of the housemates and then what happens? Another thing to reflect on is that different people have different approaches to or definitions of cleanliness. When in college, one’s sense of cleanliness may have been a little less stringent. One might be a little more impatient with someone else’s habits when in their ’50′s or ’60′s than they were at eighteen or twenty-one.
However, I do like the creative way that boomers are looking at the question of housing and how they want to spend their older years and I look forward to reading more about these innovative approaches towards aging.
© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed 2013