In my book, Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? I write about an incident that continues to haunt me to this day.
In 1995, my hometown of Chicago experienced a social nightmare. On July 13, the heat index peaked at 119°F—a record high for the city—causing 465 people to lose their life due to the heat. Of the decedents for whom age could be determined, 51 percent were seventy-five years of age or older.
It was devastating to watch the entire scenario unravel. Socially isolated adults remained terrified behind closed and locked doors and windows, their air conditioners off due to rising utility bills. Their fear of being robbed and of other criminal activity kept them from responding to “strangers” who continuously warned them of imminent danger. Refusing to leave their homes for city cooling centers cost the lives of hundreds of elders who, instead, died a slow and horrifying death.
How is it that so many people were profoundly affected by something we would appear to have a handle on? How pervasive is social isolation? How might this trend of living alone end up ultimately costing anyone their life?
Today, people continue to be at risk of being “left behind.” People who have other choices. People like you and me.
When it comes to aging in place alone, you may be challenged socially in the following ways:
- Feeling isolated, lonely, and depressed
- Being “invisible” (people you encounter have no desire to acknowledge your presence)
- Dealing with stigmas (dementia, chronic medical conditions, age, childlessness, and living alone)
- Difficulty accepting and asking for help (leaning toward a self-sabotaging mind-set of independence rather than interdependence)
- Intolerance (young vs. old, straight vs. gay, well vs. sick, wealthy vs. middle class vs. poor, and old vs. old)
You are as capable now as you will ever be to choose one housing option over another. It may be time to take action.
Move in with strangers, aging parents or relatives, friends, siblings, or adult children. Or choose to remain in your own home and accept boarders and roommates—from grandchildren, university students, travelers, and others.
The idea of sharing housing may work well, and it requires a lot of talking and planning to avert potential conflicts—length of the stay, considerations of other household members (if any), pets, friends who visit, abiding by existing household rules, and much more. You also need to find out whether city codes restrict the number of unrelated people living together in one residence.
Sharing a household stretches available dollars while providing added security and companionship. Financial arrangements, room access, expected household tasks, and possible caregiving responsibilities vary according to mutual verbal and/or written agreements.
As you can see, there is a lot of thought that goes into the concept of shared housing. Consequently, working with a reputable company like Silvernest is a must. If you are currently living alone, or think you will be down the road, where, and how you live matters.