In an era of individualism, you may think
“Mmm, not for me”,
but read on to see how house-sharing is fast becoming
part of the new landscape of retirement
We live in an era of individualism, where this age-old concept of house-sharing can fall into a “Not for me!” category. Having a stranger in your home, sharing your space, may seem like an intrusion into one’s privacy. However, co-living, as house-sharing is called, is fast becoming part of the new landscape of retirement and could be a positive, beneficial and wonderful solution provided you find the right person/people to share your space.
YEI’s first article looked at the concept of senior co-living and brought in a plethora of response, most responses coming from South African seniors who would like to explore this latest trend in retirement accommodation.
YEI’s second article looked at how to kick-start a senior co-living/house-share and covered some of the basics like ground rules, house-sharing agreements, leases, how to find a potential housemate, and how to screen them.
This article, YEI’s third and last article regarding co-living,
looks at the pros and cons of sharing a home with other seniors.
The pros of co-living
While people live longer, and health care and housing costs rise, there is a definite need for senior house-sharing or co-living. There are benefits for the house-owner and the renter. The house-owner can offset some of the cost of their home, get help around the house and share costs of groceries, transport, internet, home help, carers and other living expenses. The person renting receives equal benefits by being able to live at a more cost-effective rate in more affordable, nice and safe housing. House-sharing or co-living can extend the life of your retirement savings.
Arguably, companionship, support and friendship are one of the biggest benefits for seniors who live together. An additional benefit arising from this companionship is the likelihood of a healthier lifestyle as it is probable that the housemates will cook together, eat together, exercise together, socialise together and live long into their golden years together. That social connection feeds the soul.
Safety and independence
Even if you want to remain independent, house-sharing/co-living will offer you that cost-effective alternative to homecare or living in a retirement village or retirement home that you battle to afford.
The safety aspect is critical. There is safety in numbers and not only from a crime perspective, but there is safety in having someone around to remind you to take your medication, and safety in being found if you have a fall.
Peace of mind for family members
It is so common for South African seniors to have children living abroad. Children feel reassured when parents are living with others – it’s a weight off their shoulders knowing that there are other people around should something out of the ordinary happen. Ageing is a family affair and being with those who are closest to you can be the antidote to isolation and loneliness in retirement. However, it is not always possible or desirable, for many reasons, to be to close to family. Living by yourself is not for everyone – it’s expensive, and you are in isolation. House-sharing/co-living gives you that support system which is liberating for seniors.
The cons of senior house-sharing
Selecting the right housemate
When it comes to selecting the right housemate, it’s not unlike the dating process! And, like dating, selecting the right housemate is one of the biggest challenges, when it comes to senior house-sharing/co-living. It is critical to conduct the screening process. You need to be highly aware that senior scams are on the rise, and exert extreme caution when looking for a housemate. Even though the person might seem super-nice and compatible, you have to get over that and conduct the screening process in a highly professional manner. If the potential housemate is genuine, super-nice and actually compatible, he/she will understand that the screening process needs to be done. Diligent screening will take care of problems down the line. In addition, and most importantly, take time to compile upfront agreements. YEI’s recommendation is that that an agreement gets drawn up with a local attorney, similar to a tenant’s agreement. These detailed agreements need to contain specifics about respective responsibilities and privileges, should establish boundaries and should be complete with an exit strategy – this is for the safety of both parties. It is also recommended that the initial lease be for six months which means you can remove a person who turns out to be undesirable. And don’t forget to ask for references – ask about the strengths and weaknesses of the person and if there is anything further that you need to know. Also google the person to learn more about him/her.
There’s no getting away from it. Senior house-sharing/co-living involves compromise. And senior house-sharing/co-living means that there is less privacy and the issue that you may have to deal with someone else’s quirky habits. It’s imperative to understand from the outset that there will be trade-offs and privacy could be compromised to a point. Conflict arises when expectations are unclear and no house-sharing agreement has been compiled upfront. Privacy has been ingrained into our culture – including the notion of personal space. Giving up a degree of privacy, be it over financial issues (to a point) or control over your environment (also to a point) is not necessarily easy. Like many retirement issues – stopping work, downsizing, moving home – you have to get your head around this and know that house-sharing/co-living is something you want to do, and prepared to do, given both cons and pros.
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