Sandspit resident Linda Shaw says people over 50 who are divorced, widowed or single may well find themselves living alone, and that can be a problem.
“It’s been proven that such isolation is detrimental to physical, emotional and mental health,” she says.
But she adds that escaping this isolation is not necessarily easy. Many cannot afford to buy accommodation in a retirement village, Auckland Council does not provide rental accommodation for seniors north of Torbay, and the Ministry of Housing is focused on emergency and family house needs.
“There is no obvious assistance for active, fit older people who do not see themselves as ready for retirement or rest home facilities,” she says.
But Linda believes she has come up with a solution.
She wants to help set up co-housing arrangements where seniors get together and share the same home. She has set up a meeting next month to talk about the idea with interested seniors.
Specifically, she would like to explore the idea of creating a pilot co-housing arrangement in a large rental property.
Linda says a typical scenario might involve a widowed woman living rurally who owns her own house.
She does not want to sell it, but is experiencing loneliness and depression.
She could solve this by renting her house out and moving into a co-housing situation in, say, Warkworth.
Linda says this could likely improve her health and her financial situation at the same time.
She adds that people who are older – especially men – find it difficult to make friends.
“This co-housing concept improves the chances of making high quality friendships that are based on honesty and openness. There seems to be few similar housing options in New Zealand of this type. We need to start a new trend.”
She says if more than one house is set up, monthly shared meals between houses and combined social events would also be possible.
Linda has made enquiries with local property managers who confirm that landlords would be keen to engage with mature, responsible long-term tenants and that four-to-six bedroom houses are available locally.
Linda admits that when people live together there can be problems, and she anticipates the houses would need to set up processes to resolve conflicts quickly and easily.
Following the meeting at Warkworth Community Rooms, Linda hopes to gather together a group who are interested in the concept to find a house they would like to live in together. This could then become a pilot for others to follow.
She also hopes to connect with landlords interested in renting to seniors.
“Co-housing can be challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the downside. People will live with others in a mutually respectful way – much like our grandparents used to live together in families,” she says.
The senior co-housing meeting will be held at The Warkworth Community Rooms, on Sunday, October 6 at 3pm.
Info: Linda Shaw 0220 546 320.