Baby boomers are not strangers
when it comes to bucking the trends.
In the Woodstock era,
baby boomers brought about a seismic cultural shift.
Now, they are revolutionising retirement!
The demand for retirement accommodation currently exceeds what facilities can accommodate, with waiting lists that can run to two years or more. With 5.3 million 60 plussers in South Africa, estimated to double or triple by the year 2050, it is not surprising that accommodation in retirement has become an enormous issue in this country. And it will get worse. Long waiting lists aside, it seems that retirees are looking for alternative options in which to spend a comfortable and enjoyable life in their senior years! Retirement villages are a fabulous option for those who are in a position to take up this option, but it would appear that many South African retirees cannot even think about this option. So what other options are available?
In a Facebook discussion about accommodation in retirement having become an enormous issue in this country, YEI members had this to say:
- I’ve yet to find a Retirement place / Old Age Home that I can afford on my very limited income – Claudia
- The prices of these places are only for the very wealthy. There are not enough facilities for the middle to lower class citizen – Glynda
- We have been on two waiting lists – 1 for 5 years and 1 for 14 years – Marlene
- Some facilities mandate a R5000 non-refundable payment on waiting list… daylight robbery! Brenda
- Retirement villages are only for the rich! Ordinary middle class pensioners can’t afford them. Corlia.
- Where the dickens do we find the money? Val
- What a pickle we seniors are in – Vivienne
Welcome to an exciting new trend – co-living in retirement!
Co-living sounds like a blast! Well, if the Golden Girls are anything to go by! You remember the TV series in the mid-eighties? The Strong-willed Dorothy, spacey Rose, lusty Southern belle Blanche and matriarch Sophia, Dorothy’s mom, who occasionally clashed, but were always there for one another in the end. Many of us reckon that a Golden Girl scenario could work very well for us in our later years!!
A co-living space is a space rented by a number of people, who are all living under the same roof and in a community, but who will all have their own contract. Co-living spaces typically entail a private bedroom and bathroom and communal eating and living spaces.
Co-housing or flat-sharing generally refers to a number of people sharing a traditional family style house that has not been directly designed to be shared. Usually, co-housing will be entirely communal apart from each resident’s bedroom.
What is co-living?
Many Baby boomers are very likely used to the concept of co-living, many having lived in shared households, communes, and messes (Zimbabwean/Rhodesian terminology for shared households).
Senior co-housing originated in Denmark in the early sixties, but in more recent years has gained popularity around the world. Co-housing has become an established part of the housing mix in the Netherlands and Sweden and is supported by government. The idea is well and truly planted in the US, Canada, Japan and Australia and New Zealand especially since the economic downturn and with the housing costs in cities having surged.
The upsides and downsides to co-living
A solution to the loneliness epidemic
Sharing a home has proved to be an antidote to the epidemic of loneliness, prevalent amongst older people. Co-living provides personal independence while simultaneously ensuring that you are part of a community. Loneliness is known to be linked to an increased risk of stroke, coronary disease, dementia and a shorter life expectancy, and sharing time and activities in a co-housing environment eliminates this risk.
Increases longevity through friendship
One huge benefit when you choose this way of life, is the friendship that comes hand-in-hand with co-living. An Australian research study suggests that strong social networks can lengthen survival rates in the elderly, meaning that having good friends in close proximity can increase longevity. Companionship is so comforting when it comes to dealing with life’s hardships, events, and experiences.
Saving money in retirement
Sharing resources saves money. It costs less to buy groceries for a group when compared to buying groceries for one. Sharing a home reduces maintenance bills, overhead costs, utility bills and really helps to ease the financial burden that many seniors are facing.
Even transportation costs can be reduced – when friends take it in turn to drive each other to the theatre, to the airport, to the shops. Activities like cooking and movie nights draw residents together in a mutually beneficial environment and are cost-effective, especially when one is trying to stretch one’s retirement savings as much as possible.
The safety aspect
Sharing with friends is much safer than living alone. You can shop together, go to the autoteller together, walk/run/hike together, go out together. Safety in numbers. One of the common risks as one ages is the risk of falling. Help will be on hand immediately if you were to have an unfortunate fall.
You keep your voice
Sharing a home together means that you all have a say on how the home is run and no-one makes unilateral decisions. Every resident has a voice!
You stay connected
As we age, we want to maintain our sense of purpose and independence. Sharing a home could provide the opportunity to stay connected to friends and do the things that are important to us.
The biggest adaptation is privacy and establishing boundaries. Sharing common areas could possibly lead to arguments and frustration. Good communication is critical. Learning to adapt to different personalities and peoples’ quirky personalities is essential, but not necessarily easy. Be honest about who you are, your opinions and your expectations. If you are honest about “things”, this could go a long way to prevent misunderstandings and avoid building up resentment and bitterness.
While most seniors are proactively taking care of their health, and in turn, their longevity, it is important to think about your long-term needs when it comes to your health. As you age, it may become necessary to have professional health care, which may necessitate your moving into a frail care or assisted living. This in turn may mean that you need to sell your share in a shared home – ensure that this incorporated into the Ts and Cs upfront.
When one is sharing a home, one could procure the services of a regular health/nurse practitioner coming in on a weekly/monthly basis to conduct basic health checks.
Plan, plan and plan some more
Co-living could well be a win-win situation when it comes to the three C’s of ageing: companionship, caregiving and costs. Most of us aren’t terribly good at anticipating our needs in the future. We also resist change until sometimes it is too late, and the decision is taken out of our hands, and then fast and dramatic changes have to happen without any forethought or pre-planning. And then your options are limited. It is far smarter and far better to think ahead and plan, plan and plan some more..
Should you consider sharing a home, make sure you have “rules and regulations” in place as one of your first priorities.
How to start a shared home scheme
Watch out for the next YEI newsletter in which we will share ideas on how to set up a home with roomies.
Interesting alternative option to sharing a home
Intentional communities share resources, ecologically sustainable lifestyles and cooperative living. Almost like living on a kibbutz, well kind of! There are many examples of a group of friends getting together to form an intentional community on a smallholding where management is non-hierarchical and handled democratically by those who live on the property with a focus on the needs and desires of those in residence.
Recommended advice from YEI
The above is brought to you for informational purposes only.
If any of the above options are of interest to you,
it is highly recommended that you conduct thorough and intense research
before making any decisions!
Article dedicated to the Kromboom Road residents!
This article has been edited, since it was first published.
Thank you to Charles Morris who so succinctly and eloquently provided YEI with the correct explanation of co-housing, co-sharing and co-living.
Please see his comments below.