Tag Archives: Blogs

Why Live Alone

A few years back, we learned of a successful experiment in communal retirement living pursued by some old friends of ours in Australia.  They had joined with two other couples, and built a special home to their requirements.  While each couple has private sleeping quarters, they share most of the 3500 square-foot house.  They love it!

Collaborative retirement household featured in "A group solution to growing older", Sydney Morning Herald, June 3 2013

Collaborative retirement household featured in “A group solution to growing older”, Sydney Morning Herald, June 3

What first caught our attention was the possibility of saving money, retiring sooner, and traveling more.

However, the more we looked into it, the more we discovered that the real value of their arrangement was the new community that came with it:  something equivalent to a new family.

As we approach the next phase of our lives, we can feel our old communities slipping away.  Our kids are preparing to leave home – we think.  When we retire from our current jobs, we will quickly lose touch with former colleagues.  Our friends are beginning to retire and move away – some to the countryside, some overseas.  We ourselves plan to move out of the City, and expect to spend more of the year abroad.

We watched what had happened to our parents, aunts, and uncles.  Many of them ended up living alone for the final years of their lives.  Some of them were shepherded into assisted living complexes when living alone became too uncertain.  Even for those who managed to stay independent – often with the help of several nearby grown children – the solo years struck us as missing something.  Was there a better way?

The tranquil view from our former island cabin - too much solitude now?

The tranquil view from our former island cabin – too much solitude now?

Cheryl and I have valued our privacy over the years.  We started our family in a development of five and ten-acre wooded lots.  We later enjoyed spending time with our boys at our off-grid island cabin.  Our retirement dream at one time included a 40-acre spread of wild countryside.

Now our perceptions are changing.  Selling the island cabin may have heralded this change;  we thought it would be too isolated as we got older.  Our experience with our own parents was pivotal:  we would probably live longer than they did, and – like most boomers – we have fewer children to rely on, children who are unlikely to live in the neighbourhood.  The same demographic shift likely means that the cost of assisted living will escalate while the quality of life in those complexes will decline.

Our reading has also underscored the importance of community.  The declining birthrate worldwide will make it harder to replace the old networks of support we are losing as we transition into the next phase of our lives.  Initiatives such as Blue Zones have shown how critical maintaining community is to our health and happiness as we age.  This aligns with advice on nurturing your communities in books such as Flourish and Younger Next Year.  We have all read by now how we can keep our brains younger by engaging in mental activity such as language skills and problem solving.  Living with other people is one way to ensure that kind of mental workout.

We recently joined an outdoor association, and were surprised to find so many retired or almost so.

We recently joined an outdoor association, and were surprised to find so many retired or almost so.

We’re now in the process of realigning our personal tradeoffs between privacy and community.  Can we construct a future for ourselves that replaces the communities we are losing?  We’re taking steps to reach out and join or create new communities for various activities.

What about collaborative living?  Is there a solution that will work for us?  Our friends in Australia had known their housemates for many years before moving in together.  When we took inventory of our own circles, we found very few possible candidates – when we broached the subject with some of those, they soon announced they were moving out of town.  Coincidence, we’re sure!

Can we find new partners for such a venture?  Perhaps.  It’s not a trivial exercise.  The householders and our friends call themselves The Shedders – primarily because of the physical and emotional baggage they had to “shed” in order to make living together work.  Will our circumstances dictate a different form of collaboration?  How far are we willing to go in trading our privacy for community?  We are grappling with now with these questions.  We’ll share some of what we learn over the months ahead.

Solitude or community - in the Marais district of Paris.

Solitude or community – in the Marais district of Paris.

Here are some of the sources that have influenced our journey.

  • Shedders:  This is Heather Bolstler’s personal blog about the journey to their collaborative retirement home.  The earlier entries are now available in this eminently readable Kindle eBook.  The Shedders are by no means the only ones to have made this work.  “My House Our House” profiles a group of three women who turned a preexisting house into a collaborative housing venture.  With an ageing population and lingering economic malaise, we predict a lot more of these in the coming decade.
  • A quiet home on a private acreage no longer the ideal?

    A quiet home on a private acreage no longer the ideal?

    Our own recent experience – such as our recent cycle trip in Provence – has underscored our own need for community.

One of our reasons for starting this blog is to reach out to a wider circle in our search for community.  We’d love to hear from you on this subject.

Okay, so Why Blog?

“I don’t understand why anyone would have a blog anyway.”

Cheryl’s crisis of confidence came the day after we’d registered the blog name.  It wasn’t an auspicious beginning.

I had to admit she had a point.  We had little time to devote to daily blog reading ourselves. Had I just wasted the domain registration fee?

Still, when I had recently pruned my own list of blogs I subscribed to, I had kept on a fistful.  Though I didn’t read every one every time, I valued seeing their postings in my in-box.  I realized that they provided me with inspiration, entertainment, and information.  With the hope that our thoughts will provide a few people with the same, we have given the blog a reprieve from deactivation.


Lessons in Shedding the Past

  • Shedders, by Heather Bolstler – The story of how 6 urban revolutionaries rewrote the manual on retirement:  Three professional couples take on the project of creating a joint retirement home and make it a reality.  Now it continues with frequent intimate reflections on life in their new “family”.  Engagingly written, it has been a personal source of inspiration about creative “retirement” in general.  The “shedding” refers to decluttering, both mental and physical.
  • Married with Luggage –  Life is Short. Live your Dream:  A couple in their 40s exchanged their traditional life in the suburbs to follow a dream of traveling the world. Now they inspire and help others to follow theirs, whatever it may be.  Decluttering is also a theme here.
  • RTW Expenses – How Much Does it Cost to Travel Around the World?  Written by “Married with Luggage” travelers, it provides monthly detailed reports now covering almost three years of enticingly inexpensive travel.  Great source of useful benchmarks – and an inspirational message.
  • Nomadic Matt – Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer:  The 30-something author of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day” provides a lot of practical advice on how to travel for less.  And even at twice his age, I still find lots here to inspire!
  • My Lifestyle Career – Fun Ways to Work During Semi-Retirement: We realized that we both had to work beyond retirement, and wanted something productive to do.  This author made it look like fun!
  • Changing Course – Helping people around the world work at what they love, follow their own road, and life life on purpose since 1995:  Another great source of inspiration from a “non job” career coach and the creator of “Profiting From Your Passions”®.
  • Daring to Live Fully – Live the Length and Width of Your Life:  When I was starting my bucket list – or “life list” as author Marelisa calls it – this was one of my best sources of information and inspiration.
  • Blue Zones® – Live Longer, Be Happier:  Not only does this site make living to a happy old age look enticing, it provides on-the-ground research that may help us achieve it.

I wonder if Cheryl will read this post?