When we’re university students or young professionals, sharing a house or apartment with friends or roommates is perfectly normal. Older women living together, however? This is a new concept that is addressing the fact that older, single women are struggling to find affordable housing in today’s market. Sharing With Friends is a new project in Queensland, Australia, that aims to help overcome the housing crisis for this demographic. (1)
Older Women Living Together To Make Housing Affordable
Housing struggles, financial insecurity, and loneliness are three big problems that older single women face. This is especially for those who don’t have family, or at least no family who live close by. Many are faced with having to spend nearly all of their income on rent alone if their housing applications are accepted at all.
“I lost my job and my house I’d been living in for 25 years,” said Maggie Shambrooke, one of the first members of the program. “I had no success in the private rental market because I was on Newstart. I applied for 30 properties and couldn’t find anywhere to live.”
After raising her children as a single mom and a successful career, this situation was especially difficult. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon. For women particularly, life as they age and post-retirement (whether voluntary or forced) can be difficult. The average superannuation balance of an older woman is still typically more than $100,000 less than a man.
Sharing With Friends Makes Living Affordable
Sharing With Friends is a new program that pairs up five older women to live together and share expenses. It also gives them a sense of community and combats loneliness. The idea is that they come together with the assistance of workshops to decide on things such as (2):
- Rules and responsibilities
- How they will share expenses
- Having visitors
- How their investment will be recouped if/when they leave the group
- Budget and financial management strategies
They then have a consultation with the organization’s architect to help them design their home and gardens. Each person invests $120,000 for a house that is constructed for each woman to have her own private space while sharing common gardens and spaces where they can be social together.
Older Women Living Together, Separately
Each home is designed so that it looks like a regular residential unit from the street. However, once inside the property, it is actually five separate living spaces for each woman. They have their own room, kitchen, and bathroom. While they each have their own private courtyard, they also have shared outdoor spaces and gardens, laundry facilities, and libraries. The architect designed the home in such a way so that each person feels they have their own private space, but can socialize when they want to and, of course, share expenses.
For the women in the pilot program, it has been helpful, enjoyable, and most importantly, has allowed them to live in peace, dignity, and stability.
“I don’t have any family at all, so the sense of community is important as far as I’m concerned,” says program participant Barbara Symes.
Sharing With Friends is still in the application process to be an official charity. Their goal, of course, is to help older women live happy, safe, lower-stress lives and provide them with a sense of community and belonging. You can read more about Sharing With Friends and their plans on their website.