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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!


retirement - seniors


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!!



Co-living meaning

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 meaning

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.


retirement - seniors sharing a house


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.


senior runners


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.


Your health

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. 


retirement - ladies drinking coffee


Interesting alternative option to sharing a home


Intentional communities

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.



Related articles


Finding your sense of purpose in retirement

The unique challenges of Retirement: Challenge #3 – Housing



  • Sara Cassim Motala says:

    Due to cultural diversity n cultural needs in SA …it is important that tis important factor be addressed so that everyone benefits frm this highly considered endeavour. TIA

    • Marilynh says:

      Hi Sara

      Thank you for your valid comments, and you are quite right. All factors and needs need to be taken into consideration, in order for everyone to benefit.

      Kind regards

  • V. Every says:

    We managed to get a cottage of our own in a complex of semi-detached cottages for the elderly, rented at a figure based on one’s income which can’t be above a certain amount and if it is on the low side it can be real value for money. They are spacious enough too. However one has to put up with strict rules and a gruff supervisor but we couldn’t imagine getting a package like this at our age and income and with a shortish waiting list too!

    • Avril Vrede says:

      Hi there, could u tell me where this place is please

      • V.Every says:

        Hi Avril. Sorry only saw your message now. It’s in Port Elizabeth. However we are beginning to see instances of unfairness including favouritism. Our friend has been able to move in just recently having waited about 2 years only but not due to the latter. If one is disciplined with the use of water and electricity and conforms to the rules it can be fine.

        • Auriol Engel says:

          Hi! V.Every
          Could you give me contact details for this organisation in order for me to enquire about it.

          Thanks so much!

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Vernon

      That’s great news! I imagine your establishment has a long waiting list, as there are sadly many people in great need of accommodation based on their income. We are facing a huge housing crisis in this country.


      • Vernon says:

        No, it is round about 2 years it seems although life here has certain issues but if one is disciplined and overlooks some things it is ok.

    • Catby says:

      Sounds really good. Please let me know more…

      • Vernon says:

        It is in Port Elizabeth, not long waiting list but there are certain issues here. If they can be overlooked and one is disciplined things work out ok.

    • Jean Verster says:

      Interested in this. Where is this please?

    • MA Vos says:

      Hi can u send me details pls

    • Beverley says:

      Hi there, I’m looking for an affordable sharing scheme so that I can finally stop work after 50 years!!! My pension won’t suffice so I’m still employed but have been told that I have retire July 2020 – not an option. Your input sounded like a good place to start. Bev

    • Jen Paton says:

      I too don’t want to go to a cottage in a retirement home because of the restrictions but I long for some company and my own bit of garden. Co-living independently may be an answer but I can’t find like minded people in Pmb. I’m a widow living in a flat and I only see my son and grandchildren once or twice a year. With covid I’ve had no visitors for 2 years and I can’t stand it anymore. How does one contact others likevthis and pool resiurces?

  • Vivienne Rodkin says:

    Dear V Every.
    Please advise where these affordable cottages are situated.
    I live in Cape Town. South Africa.
    Many thanks

  • Michael Abdinor says:

    We are very fortunate to live and own a unit situated in a 24 hour security “estate” consisting of simplexes and duplexes close to the ocean. The age group residing here is between mid twenties and into the eighties. It is well managed and close to medical and food amenities. We hope to live out our lives here. We were very fortunate not to have to look for retirement centers as a result of downsizing from a four bed roomed house to this WELL in advance of retirement.
    Unfortunately as the article states many people have to look at communal housing. For example if 4 couples who are relatives and or friends it could work reasonably well. You will be surprised how “important” the TV can become! In our experience citizens of the countries mentioned are on the whole more tolerable than the average South African. I could relate many experiences. On top of this there is a tendency like other countries “Birds of a feather flock together”
    That’s why I conclude with due diligences should be conducted and Conduct Rules established as it is difficult to evict defaulters.

    • Marilynh says:

      Hi Michael

      You are 100% correct. Due diligence must be conducted and rules and regulations established in advance of a co-sharing arrangement. Good and reasonable rules and regulations are for the benefit of all residents. We will be discussing this in a follow-up article in the next YEI newsletter. Good to hear that you are in an established estate, but there is no doubt that retirees are facing a housing crisis currently.


  • Pam Hartog says:

    Every V,
    I am also interested in your mentioned cottages.
    Please advise where they are located and who to make contact with regarding any enquiries.

  • Marie Taylor says:

    I am retiring soon. Are there any of these facilities available in the Belleville ,Cape Town area. As I have been working with the elderly thie will be the ideal accommodation for me.

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Marie

      Watch out for the next YEI newsletter in which we will share ideas on how to set up a home with roomies or join a co-housing establishment.


  • Vicky Jacklin says:

    I think this is a wonderful idea provided you are familiar with the people with whom you are considering co-housing. There could be problems if everyone doesn’t work together and make a commitment and cooperate with each other but other than that, we certainly can’t afford to buy into a retirement complex. They are only for the wealthy!

    • Marilynh says:

      Hi Vicky

      We agree! It is a wonderful idea and could solve many issues with this current housing crisis that we are going through. And yes, setting up the right rules and regulations is critical, as is the choosing of housemates. More to follow in our follow-up article…

      Kind regards

  • Catby says:

    Sounds really good. Please let me know more…if there are retirees in the Durban area e.g.Musgrave, I would like to explore such an option . I have a small capital sum, lots of experience in running shared housing for uni students, backpackers and young working people. I have also built and supervised building on renovation and new home projects. There are still opportunities to purchase homes in the area which are large enough e.g . 4 bedroom and have sufficient grounds for expansion at a cost which compares favourably to the luxury retirement unit prices. Of course a closed corporation agreement would be necessary to provide some guarantee for individual shared investment in the reno of project. I have seen these work in the UK where I have worked as live in carer for some years. The degree of autonomy and privacy is managed by the residents to suit their individual preferences. I would be interested to hear from others prepared to partner with me in such a venture.

  • Janice says:

    I think back to 1960s when my grandmother and many others lived happily in boarding houses. These types of hotels have disappeared and they so fulfilled the community living role for the elder as described above.

    • Marilynh says:

      You’re right, Janice. This kind of home seems to have all but disappeared, and yet it was successful. “Things” have a habit of doing full-circle and coming back into fashion. Co-living can be likened in some ways to boarding houses.


  • June Arderne says:

    I loved your article. I have a house in Rondebosch with 6 en suite bedrooms. It has a lovely large swiiming pool. I used to run it as a guest house and now would like to co-house with other older guests. Please could you advertise this on your next newsletter? I can let you have pictures and details. Lovely area opposite a park.

    • Auriol Engel says:

      Hi there! June,
      My husband and I would be interested if the price is good. We are 68 and 71 respectively and in reasonably good health. I am good at Admin work as well as cooking which could be discussed and my husband could be good with the plumbing maintenance.

      We have travelled extensively and have lived and worked in different countries and therefore have lots of experience with different cultures and different people.

      I think it is a great idea of sharing.

      Kind regards

      Auriol and Gerry Engel

    • Estelle says:

      Hi June,
      Could I have more information about your co sharing? Many thanks

  • Charles Morris says:

    Thank you YE! for this article on cohousing/co-sharing, the first I’ve come across in SA. I have been working for a couple of years now towards the establishment of a cohousing community in SA according to established cohousing principles and so was very interested to read the article. I have a few observations about it (no criticism intended):
    – The reference to ‘The Golden Girls’ more accurately describes the concept of co-living than that of cohousing. Both are intentional communities, but co-living (or co-sharing) is a community of people living in a single home with shared spaces such as kitchen, dining and living areas and even bathrooms (e.g. the ‘Golden Girls’ house), while co-housing is a community of private homes on a single property surrounding a shared space or ‘common house’. Co-living involves more sharing of living areas, while cohousing communities are generally of freestanding, conventional homes with all usual accommodation and facilities, the agreed-upon shared spaces being found in the common house and common areas of the property.
    – So far, I have come across only one urban cohousing community in SA where the participants had deliberately set about forming a cohoused community, a complex of 7 houses in Parkview, Jo’burg. (Not to say however that there are not others, just that I’ve not found them.) There are a number of formal co-living developments underway in SA however, although aimed at a younger demographic and usually described as micro-apartments – see for example UrbanOn in Cape Town ( and this article –
    – The reference to a kibbutz in your article in the context of cohousing is not strictly correct, as cohousing is not based on agriculture nor is there any intent for the community to produce and share a common income from the property.
    – the point about loneliness is well made – isolation and loneliness in cities is widespread, not helped by developer-driven communities of townhouses, apartments and retirement homes where, despite the marketing blurb, the design discourages community. In January last year and in recognition of the growing social problem of loneliness the UK government established a secretariat for loneliness – see Senior cohousing embraces the concepts of co-caring (which you outline in your article), aging in place and of living with dignity. Developer-driven and managed complexes of homes do not.
    – The establishment of a cohousing community starts with forming a core group of interested participants to proceed collaboratively and cooperatively to find a suitable location and to establish the community of homes. The most successful cohousing communities overseas have between 15 to 30 individual homes, but I think that as cohousing is a fledgling concept in SA 5 to 8 houses is ambitious enough. I’ve found it challenging to establish a core group of participants and then secure the right location, and so I have proceeded first to find the site and then to raise awareness and interest. The location I’ve chosen is Hilton – a wonderful environment on the doorstep of Pietermaritzburg (that has everything that opens and shuts), excellent facilities and healthcare and all the pleasures of the KZN Midlands, berg and coast close by.

    Please excuse the length of this comment – cohousing is a big subject and there’s a lot to mention about it. I’m just delighted that YE! has aired the subject and do hope that my comment is of value to you and to fellow YE!’ers. Charles Morris (

    • Jen Paton says:

      Hi Charles, I’m a 72 year old widow and interested in co sharing a property in my own cottage. I’m an ex banker turned builder (had my own company for 8 years), own my own flat and some money but not rich enough to buy on my own. I long to again have a garden and grow veg etc but can’t find any oldies here in Pmb who are willing to rake the plunge. I’m going crazy as I seldom see my son and his kids and with covid have no visitors. I value things that don’t fit in with retirement housing. Any ideas?

      • Marilynh says:

        Hello Jen

        thanks for your comments. We believe that co-living could well be the answer, but it seems to be taking a very long time to get off the ground here in South Africa. If you like, I can put forward your request on the YEI platform (no name or contact details), and if anyone comes forward, I can put them on to you.

        Regards, YEI

  • Claudia Benade says:

    Thanks for all this info. I already have other pensioners living in my home with me, but what happens we each of us cannot cope physically and need to be in Frail Care? How do we get round that problem (maybe the answer is within all the verbage of this posting, but I didn’t see it)
    regards, Claudia in Cape Town

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Claudia

      This aspect is briefly covered in the article. 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.


  • Doreen Scott says:

    Please keep me updated. This all sounds so interesting and I am certainly needing to look into this for myself too.
    Doreen Scott

  • Lyn says:

    Hello please send me the information about the above cottages as I am also interested.

  • Gerardus Benedictus says:

    Hello Charles. A litigious and voluminous missive indeed. But valid points raised. Let’s look at co-housing as a speedometer and a five speed automatic gearbox. It works if one allows it to and maintains it. Co-housing comes in many shades and forms. Not “one size fits all”. So let’s all be flexible, creative and innovative. There are no hard-and-fast rules. Suggestion: come up with solutions which suit the needs. As a country we need solutions, not obstacles and obstructions.

  • Linda Sawdon says:

    Hi June, also interested in your cohousing property – you probably have a rash of people wanting to reside with you . Biggest problem would be with those who are frailer in health, those who can be selfish – believe me its not only the young who are inconsiderate!!
    I reside in cottage in Plumstead , retired librarian, cannot afford exhorbitant costs of reirement complexes in Cape Town .
    Regards, Linda Sawdon

  • Nicolette Bedford. says:

    Goodday, i have just read the article, etc, on shared home accommodation for seniors.
    Anything available in Plumstead?
    Thankyou in anticipation, Nicolette.

  • Jen Paton says:

    Hi Charles Morris,
    I own a flat in Clarendon, Pmb. I’m an elderly widow and I hate sectional title. Although I have arthritis and walk with a stick I only need a maid to help with housework and can manage. If I had the capital I’d have started a communal living scheme myself (retired banker and also owned a construction business until 1996), idea being owning shares in a private company and having individual cottages for the investors. If they didn’t like it they could sell their shares to another approved buyer.

    Problem is price. So many schemes are by developers who make a killing and then pull out. One would need to identify the plot (must have trees) and build cottages for each investor. I would be most interested to buy into such a scheme; but it would have to be with like minded people who want eco-friendly living. I’d like to hear more from you if you have something in mind. It doesn’t have to be in the Pmb environs, I’d be happy to move to the mountains or elsewhere but preferable in a low crime environment which I don’t think Hilton is?

    Regards, Jen Paton

  • Jen Paton says:

    I am also interested in a communal living scenario, viz. individual cottages on a shared plot, preferable with eco-minded people. It would have to be structured properly with fair rules but NOT a sectional title scheme which I’m in now and hate. I’m 71 years old and also not wealthy, the sale of my flat would have to cover costs. My background is finance and I also owned a construction business in the late 90’s so I have expertise to do this but unfortunately no capital.

    It would be good to collect enough people in the same boat and with the same outlook with a view to actually do something about it, as I am a widow and very lonely, and longing to have my own bit of sunshine and garden again but still have a measure of independence. I live in Pietermaritzburg but don’t necessarily feel tied to this area.

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Jen

      I am thinking about renting our 5 rooms en suite, in Bloemfontein. The idea is to include all meals, laundry ect. I know it is not what you had in mind re the free standing but privacy will be respected, as you mentioned it would be wonderful to have like minded people together. As mentioned I have been thinking about it for awhile as I do believe there are wonderful, independent people out there that would like to be in a safe, pleasant and friendly environment.

  • Andrea Messina says:

    Hi everyone, my mom is keen on co-living in Durban or Hilton if anyone has anything available?


  • Magriet says:

    Me and my suster would love to be part of this

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