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Older Adults Thrive in Shared Community

Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

In the 20th century, we had a pretty narrow view of how we thought older adults wanted to live. We assumed they wanted to stay in their own homes no matter what – even if that meant living alone – until the day they died. Furthermore, a senior’s options used to be limited to either living at home or living in a nursing home.

Over the past few decades, more options have sprung up, including independent senior housing and assisted living. But all of these choices still operate under the assumption that older adults want to live completely independently until they absolutely need some help.

Guess what? That’s not always the case. There are seniors who are perfectly capable of living alone in their own homes but who crave the interdependence of living with others. That’s why I was so pleased to read a feature in the Chicago Tribune about a non-profit program that’s been around – amazingly – since 1983 called Senior Home Sharing.

The program provides an innovative housing option for older adults in the Chicago area who are self-sufficient but who would like to share a home with other elders. The program places applicants in homes burrowed in quiet suburban neighborhoods with other seniors ranging in age from their 60s to their 90s.

Each resident has a private bedroom, but all other house areas are shared. They function as a team to split household chores as well as to enjoy each other’s company through self-planned and unplanned activities.

And, they are there for each other when times get tough.

A live-in house manager provides three meals a day as well as medicine reminders. Otherwise, the homes are just like any other home occupied by a group of renters.

The program has been a huge success. Residents comment on the companionship and camaraderie they feel with their roommates and how even though some never imagined this kind of arrangement for themselves, it’s perfect for them.

I can see why. Consider people who grew up in large families or spent much of their adult lives raising them. These folks thrive on company, community, and the interdependent nature of going through life together. Why should elders be deprived of this simply because they are widowed, divorced, or not otherwise partnered? And don’t assume that these folks should be living with their kids. Maybe they don’t have kids, or maybe that option just isn’t feasible or desired.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t need a human connection. And that’s exactly what Senior Home Sharing provides. Amen to this program for providing a bold and empowering alternative for older adults. For more information about the program, see Senior Home Sharing.


Healy, V. O. (October 12, 2013). Seniors share home and so much more. Chicago Tribune (Kindle edition).

Keep Reading By Author Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
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