A home for old age is shareable


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In which I confess that I designed my home for a hermit and that I now intend to mend my ways in preparation for an almost inevitable old age.

OK. My awareness of hazards within my home has been raised, and no doubt I’ll carry on making it safer.

But shareability is just as important if I want to stay in my apartment forever. Later, when independence becomes an unrealistic desire, it might be a rather good idea, just an idea, to share this apartment with another person. An old friend, a new friend, a nurse — someone who would notice if I didn’t appear for breakfast one morning.

I made my apartment unshareable on purpose

Now I have made it shareable by accident.

Because I now had a second bathroom, I decided on impulse to move upstairs. The tiny upstairs bedroom is in a sort of corridor on the way to my office, where I spend most of my working day. Sleeping there feels like playing hooky from real life, or camping under the stars. Up I went. More expenses followed, alas: in the office now I added a splendid built-in Lundia wardrobe-cum-office shelves. A big fat old couch in the corner and hey presto! this excellent study doubles as a private sitting room. Who’s a lucky girl?

Fix one thing and another needs fixing

Oops, the bedroom and bathroom downstairs need tidying up. New shower, mend a broken mirror, and boom! Now this is a guest-room with ensuite.

At that point I realised that I had a home that could easily be shared. Tons of usable, private space for two people or one plus a couple. I test it out with paying guests and yep, I could handle company, if carefully managed.

Slap me—I love living alone

This is a stupendous change in my mentality. I adore living alone. I choose to live alone. I love my people but I need buckets of privacy. I’m in no rush to share my space: I hope I can live alone for many many years. In fact my original design decisions (top bedroom in a corridor, for instance) guaranteed that nobody would dream of trying to share my space. It would be just too awkward. I did that on purpose, believe it or not: I put my own privacy ahead of my guests’ comfort, so they wouldn’t stay too long. So kick me.

But now, to my surprise, I feel confident that my apartment is arranged in such a way that sharing happily is possible, even for me. Meanwhile I practise on the occasional paying guest.

11 thoughts on “A home for old age is shareable

  1. toutparmoi says:

    As a friend of mine says, “The baby boomers began their adult lives sharing living quarters, and that’s how they’ll probably end them.” Sadly, there are very few dwellings designed to accommodate anything but a family of Mum, Dad, and a couple of kids. Such families, I believe, were first noted as being in the minority in NZ in the late 70s or early 80s.

    Families come in all shapes and sizes and always have done; they don’t even have to consist of blood relatives. But housing design is still to catch up with that.

    1. I agree, architecture is all. The New Zealand Home, a TV series, showed how Polynesian immigrants have knocked out walls and incorporated garages into a home that will accommodate a communal way of life. I’ve posted an update which includes a Dutch experiment in mixing age groups artificially.

      1. toutparmoi says:

        I watched and enjoyed that programme, but couldn’t help wondering why some homes aren’t built communal in the first place. And others, divisible, as you have made yours.

      2. Hear hear.

  2. Bernadette says:

    I hope it is a very long time before you have to take such action.

    1. Thanks Bernadette. Meantime the AirBnB thing is going well.

  3. Sounds like a plan!

  4. The thought of having to live with someone (other than my husband and sometimes he’s a bit much) gives me the chills. I keep thinking I’ll just get one of those “I’ve fallen” buttons to press when I get older. You are very wise to start planning early enough.

    1. I know where you’re coming from! The thinking and the shift of mind-set has been the biggest commitment for me so far. But I’m only toying with house sharing.

  5. Aunt Beulah says:

    Like you, I cherish my privacy and am quite content with my own company, though I also cherish the time I spend with my husband. More and more thoughts of old age and can we live in a house with as many stairs as ours has creep into our conversations. I wish I could accidentally come up with a solution, as you have. I’ll have to think about how our house could be re-apportioned to lessen the stair climbing.

    1. It is a tough challenge. I guess you are picking the brains of any architect friends? A builder told me anything is possible — at a price.

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