Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Living Arrangements

Winter tablescape in the kitchen, with the sun bright on the wall

I haven't written about living arrangements since September 2010, when I posted a blog essay that explored elder co-housing, house sharing, intentional communities and other possibilities. With millions of people aging, it certainly is timely to think about ways to live that increase community and make life easier.

Here's the link to my earlier reflections on the subject in case you want to take a look.
some thoughts on architecture, place and community 

I've lived alone a great deal in the past 15 years until I spent a year and a half sharing a townhouse with my friend Louise. Living with a person can deepen your friendship. That is what has happened with Louise and I.

While I was living with Louise I found this cottage, where I presently abide quite comfortably and happily. When I first saw this place, the garden particularly enchanted me. I was drawn to the house, too. I could imagine feeling quite comfortable in the cottage, which is welcoming and a bit worn. A bit like me perhaps.

It seemed a great bonus that the place also had a garden suite, composed of two rooms and a bath in the back part of the house. That meant there would be enough room to have a housemate. I liked the idea of having a housemate.

When you are older it makes financial sense to share your abode. Friendship and mutual support are other attractive reasons to share a domicile, if you can find a compatible person.

Women live longer and women in their 80s and older are more likely to be living alone. This can increase isolation, depression and other factors that affect mental and physical health. Of course, there are many possible pitfalls for older people looking for housemates. When city or county agencies help by screening and matching people up, it can be very helpful.

I had two brief, unsuccessful houseshare experiences before my friend Anne moved in. Neither of the encounters was dangerous or terribly unpleasant, but they weren't much fun, either.

What a difference between those experiences and being here with Anne. It is a great pleasure to share the cottage with her. It feels very good-- very relaxed, safe, comfortable and companionable. We respect each other's privacy and we also get together fairly regularly.

My friend Anne
Here's how I met Anne. My dancer friend Robin was going to see a movie and asked if I wanted to join her. She told me that she was meeting someone at the theater, a woman named Anne. Yes, I wanted to go so I headed downtown.

I was early and I decided to sit in front of the hotel and people watch. That's always interesting and fun. After awhile, I looked down toward the movie theater, which is not that far away. There I saw a woman standing.

"That must be Anne," I thought to myself. I got up and started to walk toward her. She began to walk toward me, too. When we met, I asked her, "Are you Robin's friend?"

"Yes, I am," she told me. "Well, I'm Gaea and I'm looking forward to going to the movie with you and Robin."

"Oh," she said. "I'm Anne."  We kept chatting as if we had known each other for years.

Today I was thinking about that first meeting.

"Did you know I was going to join you and Robin?" I asked Anne.

"No, I had no idea," she answered.  "You started to walk toward me when I began walking toward you," I said.

"Yes, I did," she responded. Anne didn't know why she walked toward me and I don't know how I knew who she was.

I have no idea how these things happen, but they do.  Now we are friends and we are sharing a house. So there you have it.  It is a happy circumstance.

These are two books I am using in my upcoming class at OLLI, "Retirement, Refirement and Successful Aging."  The class will take place in February. I'm looking forward to it.

I will also be presenting a talk at the Ashland Library on February 3rd. It's titled "What's So Great About Aging?"

Cold and wintry here. So many of my friends are in Hawaii and Mexico, giving me the chance to practice mudita, or sympathetic joy.

Hope you are enjoying life, whatever the weather patterns.


  1. MUDITA ... what a beautiful concept. This is the first time I have ever seen this word. The closest we come to this idea in the English language is when someone says, "I'm so happy for you" ... and yet it's just not the same.

  2. Hi Sue, Mudita means taking joy in the joy of others...it is an antidote for jealousy or envy. I cannot pretend to be far advanced in the perfection of mudita as I am longing to be in Mexico or Hawaii myself right now. But since I am not, mudita seems a good response.

  3. Thx, Gaea...got me thinking...I need a place with garden space, lots of sunshine and a roomie or two...walking to downtown Ashland. Anyone have/know of such a place?
    BTW: I'm unable to link to your earlier reflections...no permission :-(

  4. Hi Karen, Join the communal society....don't know of anyplace right now, but will let you know if I hear of one. I guess you have to Google the earlier blog post...if you enter Sage's Play, architecture, place and community, it will come up. It has some good stuff in it.