If you can read the whole article – yes, right down to the bottom -you may get some understanding of the project that I am trying to get underway.
I have been in touch with the Women’s Co Housing Group in the UK, as well as an organisation in Australia that is working on projects for people in need. I have a long letter with documentation to go to the Minster for Women, Michaelia Cash – but am waiting on a little additional information.
If you click here co-housing you will find a raft of documents, newspaper articles and more with information about issues with senior solo women, housing costs, co-housing for women and more. Hopefully, you will get some idea about a project on co-housing that I am working on. Initially, I am going to the Office of Women, Federal government, but will tackle State Government offices too.
Housing/living conditions are a particularly serious problem.
Women who own their own homes and live alone, long for another option too. It can be lonely. You can be isolated.
Many single solo women are unable to afford the high rents in the private rental market and the cost of going into a “seniors over 50’s” accommodation is terribly expensive for what is on offer. Today, after an inquiry, I was told that I could have a one bedroom apartment, with all meals provided (I don’t want that!) at a cost of $360 – $380 per week. It leaves little spare for anything else – and I risk living in a complex surrounded by married couples and a mix of single men and women. The idea of a group of senior solo women has much more appeal to me!!!
Unless you are in this cohort – you will not understand the challenges!
November 19th, 2016
The acronym SoSeW is for Solo Senior Women. I have been talking for some time about this cohort. Solo Senior Women. I guess it is not surprising that no one understands the challenges of being one of this cohort unless you become one. I often refer to them as SoSeW’s.
It may be that
- the woman has never married
- the woman has married and divorced
- the husband has died
- the woman is in a marriage with a spouse that makes life difficult for her
- the husband lives in a nursing home or elsewhere
My story is that I was married for 43 years – much of it challenging, but in the end I could no longer cope with the way my life had become. Efforts to revitalise the marriage with consultation and “marriage guidance” did not work for me. One day, after many threats to leave, I did just that. Despite many challenges I don’t regret what I did. I am certainly a happier person for doing just that. But it has come with many disappointments, challenges, moments of stress and loneliness. I still find it better than the life I was living before I ‘ran away’.
What it did for me was thrust me into this “senior solo” cohort that is apparently ignored by all but those in it. I’ve tried Google to identify support services or networks for this group, and most items on the internet relate to sex. Most of this cohort are not looking for that, although I do acknowledge that some are. At some stage, there will be some research that identifies that issue and others for this cohort.
I do hope to create a website for this topic, but in the mean time, I will post articles on this site, as I work through some of the requirements for setting up an organisation. In the meantime, I welcome comments and perhaps you can make contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I will write occasional articles on the topic SoSeW and am in the process of setting up a new website.
What are the key issues?
- housing affordability
- financial issues
- aloneness (especially accident/sickness events)
- lack of social activities (affordability/driving at night and other issues)
- managing health issues alone
This article is on a website. I have just copied the article about Co Housing.
Read the full article here.
Live together – but not too together
Shirley Meredeen, co-founder of the Older Women’s Co-Housing group. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer
“It’s the weekends that can be difficult,” says Shirley Meredeen, who has lived on her own in London for 36 years. “If I’ve not spoken to anyone for two days, I’ll feel low. But then I’ll ring a friend…” It is crucial, she emphasises, to work at friendship while young, to build up “credit” against future loneliness. “The trouble is people die off – my address book gets smaller all the time.”
At 85, the least interesting thing about Meredeen, who is engaged and engaging, is her age. The first thing I notice are her dangly earrings – they make a statement. Why look dreary? And, if you’re lucky enough to be mentally hale, why not have fun and see off loneliness? With this in mind, Meredeen co-founded the Older Women’s Co-Housing group and, this summer, she will move into the first co-housing building for older women, in Barnet, north London. It will be a big day – it has taken 17 years to reach this point – and Meredeen has kept faith with the project throughout.
We have two Iranian refugees and a Scandinavian, all different classes
The idea came from another remarkable woman, Maria Brenton, an academic funded to research into older women and collaborative housing. Brenton became inspired by a Dutch model (there are 200 senior housing communities in the Netherlands) and smiles as she recalls the first meeting, in 1998, at which she presented the senior-co-housing concept to a group of older women. “Six of them went off like excited starlings to the pub afterwards…”
Their plan was to create a democratic community that would preserve privacy and protect against loneliness. Everyone would have their own front door – this would not be a commune, but residents (aged 50 plus) would meet regularly to share ideas, occasional meals and tasks (gardening/cleaning/legal issues – you name it) and be committed to mutual support. The housing would be socially inclusive (17 flats for sale, eight for social rent). Meredeen says: “We have two Iranian refugees and a Scandinavian, all different classes.” The selection process is slow, thorough and collective.
The statistics about loneliness in the UK are stark and, says Brenton, we are doing “sod all” about it. Fifty per cent of us do not know our neighbours. The majority of people over 75 and living on their own are women (she puts this down to “the cultural habit of men marrying younger women and women’s longevity”). Older women are often “isolated, self-neglectful and depressed as hell with no stimulus”. No wonder loneliness is bad for your health – “equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day”. It increases the risk of depression, dementia and heart attack – an expensive burden on the NHS. Co-housing cannot prevent dementia but, she says, “even if residents do have to shop out to care for people with dementia, it will be much later than if they had they been living on their own”.
Their project has been supported by the charities Housing for Women and the Tudor Trust and by Hanover Housing Association, the developers that provided the capital to buy the Barnet site. But Brenton describes opposition from Barnet council to a development for older people in the borough and multiple other hitches.
The more she talks about their struggles, the more the scandal of our national indifference to old age comes into view. “It’s ageism,” she says. “We don’t want to look at facts. The local authorities know the figures but their heads are in the sand.” Older people themselves “aren’t demanding enough”, but she knows why: “There’s no solidarity because of the class system. Between the well-off old and the working class, undereducated old – between bridge and bingo – there are still huge divisions.”
Meredeen has no problem about being demanding – or proactive. After retirement, she founded Growing Old Disgracefully, a network for older women living alone. “Many women of my generation had never written a cheque or driven a car – they’d depended on their men. When their husbands died – or left them – they were completely bereft. What we’re saying is: it’s not too late to start living your own life.”
She sees the Barnet scheme as a pilot: “We don’t want anyone else to wait 17 years.” And, already, it is being swamped with attention. Men have been asking, why can’t we have something like this? To which, Meredeen chirpily replies: “Why don’t you do it yourselves?”
After saying goodbye to this invigorating duo, I went to spy on the Barnet site. Like an unopened present, it is still under wraps – boards, sheeting, glassless first-floor windows. But I couldn’t help saluting it as I passed: it is such a triumph that it exists.