By Gary Geyer
It started happening around the time of ‘Kate & Allie’ and ‘The Golden Girls.’ The reason, “being there for each other.”
It’s not sweeping the nation just yet, but the idea is gaining momentum. Sociologists and demographers have noted the growing interest of baby boomer and senior women to team up and face their retirement years together.
The Golden Girls had the right idea.
Heterosexual women who are either single, divorced or widowed are pooling their resources, buying homes together, splitting the chores, buying long term health care insurance –all while enjoying each others friendship and sharing each other’s lives.
A wake-up call.
It is not uncommon for these women to have witnessed their own aging parents having to be dependent on children or paid caregivers.
In many ways it has been a “wake-up” call for them.
(In 1940, only 13% of people over 60 had a living parent. In 2000, 44% did.)
They say this is not the kind of life they want for their later years. The friends-helping-friends living arrangement could very well the answer.
Women on the average live seven years longer than men. Although thinking about it is not what they’d like, many women expect to be widows. Planning ahead is not a bad idea.
So what else is new?
Women have had experiences with living in sorority houses and college dorms. They have shared apartments after graduation and have traveled together. Many have been there for each other during divorces, deaths of parents and family emergencies. The closeness is there. There doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about the taking the logical next step.
Health related issues.
Besides the companionship, the reason most mentioned is to be there for each other for health related issues. Taking care of each other during illnesses, not to mention everyday aches and pains is a very compelling reason to consider this kind of living arrangement.
Is it the same for men?
For the most part men in this age group expect that their wives will take care of them should they get ill. Most men over 60 are not used to the caregiver role themselves. One woman voiced what others were thinking. “My husband wasn’t there to change the children’s diapers. It’s hard to imagine him having to take care of me.”
Many women say they would sooner trust their friends to be good caretakers.
Make-it-up as you go along.
Since this phenomenon is relatively new there doesn’t seem to be a right way or a wrong way of going about it. It’s kind of ‘make-it-up as you go along.’ Some have considered an arrangement similar to a pre-nuptial agreement that would make clear rights and responsibilities.
Things to consider.
And then there are inheritance issues to be considered.
There are many legalities that have to be worked out so that it doesn’t become sticky later on.
If they buy a house together, contractual matters need to be discussed and made clear.
Health-wise, it’s easy to say they will take care of each other during flu season but what about severe Alzheimer’s?
No doubt about it, we are exploring new territory. But as we all know, things are changing rapidly and we all must consider what “family” really means today. We can’t be stuck in our parent’s way of looking at things. We have to be open to new ideas. Some aren’t as radical as one might think.
As one woman put it, “Let’s face it. It’s fun having company and just plain smart to pool resources. All we want is to safeguard our quality of life, our independence and our pride.” <<
Gary Geyer is Chief Editor at Let Life In. Contact him at Editor@LetLifeIn.com