Over the last 100 years or so, the American economy—and, in many ways, our culture—has been hyper-focused on efficiency and specialization. Interestingly, this focus has changed our lives and relationships too. In a speech given at the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival, author and CEO Marc Freedman shared how post-industrialized America began to “specialize” experiences by age in a way that previous societies had not, and the trend has only accelerated over the years. This kind of segmentation is efficient for marketers, education, military service and medicine… but we’ve lost something along the way.
Age Segregation Hurts All of Us
As the U.S. has become perhaps the most age-segregated society in history, people no longer mix across generational lines in natural ways. We don’t tend to live among, spend time with, or have fun with people of different age groups. In fact, having friends of different ages is often seen as unusual and maybe a little weird. The result has been greater tension between generations, increasing isolation and a loss of community.
The good news is, we can reverse these trends by consciously choosing interactions and relationships with people of different ages. Organizations and initiatives like the Gen2Gen project from Encore.org have been working on this for quite a while now. Here at Silvernest, we’ve found that homesharing can be a great way to build connection across the generations.
Real Advantages of Intergenerational Homesharing
Don’t just take our word for it! Let these real Silvernester stories bring the experience to life. Here are some benefits our intergenerational housemates have reported:
1. A stronger sense of meaning.
Lonna is a homeowner and retired nurse practitioner in Denver, enjoying her 70s. Her renter, Shay, is a 20-something educator and Teach For America (TFA) Launch Fellow who moved from Los Angeles to work at a school in Denver. Homesharing made it possible for Shay to pursue her calling in educational equity—which was really meaningful for both housemates.
2. Greater perspective.
As a young professional, Shay really valued Lonna’s perspective. She said, “Being able to talk about my day with a ‘real adult’ is amazing. It’s helping me manage the stress of a new city, new profession, new school year, etc.”
3. Deeper understanding.
Take Nancy, a Silvernest homeowner who told us “If my friends told me, 'Nancy, you are going to rent to a 28-year-old who is half your age with long hair and tattoos from the war,’ I would have laughed and said no way!” To her great surprise, Nancy’s housemate Boyan shared her interests in hiking, biking, gardening and cooking—and the pair became great friends.
4. Increased community ties.
Silvernester Sandra is a retired teacher who happily rents space from a young couple, Jen and Scott. She reports, “We have gotten to know each other and share about our lives and major events. I even started going to their church, where the people have been friendly and open, making me feel that I belong.”
Tips for Happy Homesharing Across Generations
Whether you’re a homeowner with space to share or a renter looking for a place to live, keep an open mind about the age of your potential housemate. Your perfect match may surprise you! Here are our favorite tips for finding compatibility regardless of age.
- Communicate your boundaries and expectations as clearly as possible.
- Look for common ground. Your ages may be different, but you may share hobbies, interests and other life experiences.
- Ask and listen. Conversation styles and norms can vary from person to person, generation to generation, and even region to region. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about differences, but also tune in and really listen to what the other person is trying to communicate and share.
- Be ready to learn and grow. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn from someone with a different life experience.
At Silvernest, we believe strongly in the power of homesharing to bring people together and enhance the lives of our housemates. Do you have an intergenerational homesharing story? Tell us about it in the comments!
Visit www.silvernest.com to learn more about homesharing and sign up.