Recently, we sat down to ponder topics for upcoming blogs and to make a list of what the Golden Girls audience might be interested in learning more about. As we did so, we realized that ironically, perhaps the first thing we need to discuss – is “Why aren’t we, as seniors and/or policy makers, discussing homesharing as a realistic and viable option?” When it comes to “senior” living arrangements there are plenty of articles, blogs and websites dedicated to a variety of living styles but very few of them list homesharing as an option. It’s time to change the narrative. Homesharing feels like a “best kept secret” but we think it’s time to spread the word.
Senior Living Options
- Downsizing – Many sites talk about a variety of senior living options including downsizing the family home, a process that can be painful for some and which places a burden on the family, the senior who is downsizing and dare we say it – even on the local charitable organizations that now have to contend with all our downsized stuff!
- HomeCare – there are plenty of organizations now in place whose sole focus is to help “the aged” to “age in place.” These companies provide personal support care, home health aids, safety and security features and more, to folks who choose to live in their own home but whom might need a little extra help doing so. The problem with this option? It kind of assumes those of us who “qualify” as seniors are old and decrepit! And it’s not cheap!
- Retirement Residences – long considered the “gold standard” of retirement, these are the beautiful buildings you see surrounded by carefully manicured lawns and often located just on the outskirts of towns and cities. They are lovely – as I’m sure everyone who has ever taken a tour would agree. The problem with retirement residences however, is they are pretty darn expensive and often, given their location, are better suited to seniors who still own and drive a car. Unless you’ve retired “rich” – this option might just not be in the budget.
- Long Term Care – Can we just say this upfront? Waitlists! Long term care facilities range in price, size, amenities offered and in many other ways too. Some have “wings” depending on the level of care you might require, offering everything from independent living to fully supported Alzheimer’s care. Some provinces offer a form of financial assistance for seniors who choose (or are forced to consider) long term care but the hard truth is – good luck getting in to a facility.
- Apartments or Condominiums – We might venture to say that this is the most common option discussed when families first start exploring the idea of downsizing. It seems to be the most popular (or perhaps is perceived as the only) option available to seniors. Concerned family members will mention the benefits like no stairs, improved security or being surrounded by other like-minded mature adults. However, the reality is often something far different. Unless you are in a building dedicated to senior living, you might find yourself next door to a family of six including a crying baby and a drum-playing teenager. Perhaps you were a life-long gardener and now you’re in an apartment with no balcony and your green thumb is turning brown. The point is, unless you have carefully researched available options in your community, this form of downsizing could be all wrong.
Where does that leave us? With no option but to reveal the best kept secret in town – homesharing!
What is homesharing? Homesharing is when two or more like-minded people agree to a shared living space for the mutual benefit of all. The parties are usually unrelated and typically retain a portion of the space (such as a bedroom and den and/or a bathroom) as private, while main living areas and kitchens are shared.
- Who can participate? Literally anyone. Often viewed as an ideal scenario for the senior who no longer has the time, interest or income to maintain a large family home, the concept of homesharing initially grew out of a desire to have seniors stay in the family home (and in the community) they love. More recently, homesharing has spread to include mature adults living with young adults, often in exchange for some light labour or property maintenance and a reduced share of the costs. Mature adults benefit from the help and young adults appreciate the wisdom, advice and sometimes just the listening ear of an older adult.
- Why homeshare? Shared Costs! Companionship! Age in Place! Assistance! There are many benefits including some that we’ve already addressed above but certainly, the financial aspect is a pretty important one. Sharing the costs of maintaining a home – the heat, hydro, lawn maintenance, snow removal and more – helps to reduce the burden on a senior who might be on a fixed income. Companionship is also important on many levels, we all need friends and homesharing offers the additional benefits of having someone around if you run in to trouble, if you require physical or medical help, to watch over the house if you are going on a trip and more. If you love the outdoors but it’s all become just a bit too much to maintain your home and gardens the way you used to – homesharing provides an opportunity (and a helping hand) for you to still care for your beautiful blooms and enjoy an outdoor living space. It’s the best of all possible options!
The secret is out. Homesharing as a movement is growing. Municipalities are embracing the necessary by-law changes that will allow a variety of homesharing arrangements in communities. Companies like Golden Girls Canada are helping fellow seniors and those interested in homesharing to find one another through our website and Facebook page and helping to educate folks about the benefits of homesharing. It’s an idea whose time has come. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again! Homesharing is the best kept secret in town and it’s time to spread the word about the benefits of living in a shared living space – at any age!