“Even people who are entirely strange and indifferent to one another will exchange confidences if they live together for a while, and a certain intimacy is bound to develop.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
In my current position as the executive director of Senior Services of Albany and the Cohoes Multi-Services Senior Citizens Center, it is my responsibly to keep abreast of the trends and innovations that can improve the lives of older adults. A lot of interesting ideas cross my desk. Many of them are academically intriguing, but only a few speak to me personally.
Right now, an idea that seems to be bouncing around in the shadows and corners of my brain is the “Golden Girls House.” Although called many things, the idea is basically a well-planned out homesharing for older adults. It seems like such a simple, affordable, socially supportive alternative to living in isolation or to those large and expensive corporate senior housing facilities that are popping up all over the country.
The idea that interests me the most is one where a homeowner gets assistance with making his/her home (although this is an idea pursued mostly by woman) “senior friendly” and then works with a group to vet, screen and bring on two to three roommates. Usually, the roommates are an older woman with one younger person added to the mix. The younger person is offered a significant reduction in rent in exchange for agreeing to take on some of the more physical chores.
There is no doubt that in order for this to be successful, many details need to be worked out and a lot of safeguards need to be put in place, but the benefits are particularly attractive, including:
Independence — In many cases, having a housemate enables an older person to avoid or postpone the move to an assisted living facility.
Rental income — An additional monthly income can help an older person on a fixed income make ends meet.
Household help — Housemates can share the load, and if desirable, the home provider who needs help with cooking, laundry, gardening and other routine chores can choose to reduce the rent or provide housing free in exchange for a certain number of hours of assistance.
Transportation — Some of the older adults living in the home may no longer drive, so having one or two housemates who can provide transportation to medical appointments, the grocery store, etc. is very helpful.
Safety and peace of mind — Housemates offer a measure of safety and peace of mind for all involved.
Companionship — For many older adults someone to interact with on a daily basis is more valuable than the rental income or services they receive.
Getting the house ready, finding the right roommates and setting up all of the legal agreements may seem overwhelming, but there are agencies across the country that are developing/have developed a level of expertise in this. If you are at all interested in further discussing or exploring this idea, please send me an email at [email protected] or write to me at Senior Services of Albany, 32 Essex St., Albany 12206.
Be well and be happy.