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Shared housing – Another option for aging in place

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By Don Rosenbaum ---

What is shared housing?

Shared housing (or home sharing) is a long-term living arrangement in which two or more unrelated people share a house or an apartment. Each person has their own space — a bedroom and sometimes additional rooms — while sharing common areas such as the kitchen. 

Shared housing has been characterized as “independence through interdependence”, and illustrated in a number of short videos and news reports. There are also numerous Facebook pages (such as Radical Resthomes), books and websites promoting the idea.

This option is especially important for the health and well-being of seniors. Once their children have left home, and especially when their partner has died, many seniors face a painful choice of remaining alone in a house that may be too large and expensive for them, or uprooting themselves and moving into a seniors’ residence or retirement home.

Shared housing provides a way for seniors to remain independent, while reducing the financial, physical and social challenges that often accompany aging.  

The benefits of shared housing

Researchers have long known about the health benefits of “social capital” —ties that build trust, connection, and participation. These links are particularly important for seniors, precisely because both our health and our social capital tend to decline as we age. We lose friends and loved ones, and our world tends to contract. Social connection is therefore very important to enhance vitality and extend life expectancy.

Shared housing offers multiple benefits, including:

  • Companionship
  • Reduced financial stress
  • Security
  • Better nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Independence
  • Household help
  • Living sustainably

What may be needed to encourage more seniors to consider this option is both greater awareness, and some form of facilitation to help people explore the idea and connect with one another. Sharing a home may not be for everybody, but for many, it is a promising way to remain independent, secure, and financially solvent.