I recently was confronted by the worst-case realities of what happens to seniors living on their own. A close friend of my mother’s is a retired, single woman with a small one bedroom house and two household pets. She became very sick, and with no one around to help her, the illness got worse and she then had to be hospitalized due to the severity of her condition. Part of the reason for such the dramatic decline in an otherwise very active, and alert senior is that fact that she lived alone. She had not married, and had no children, just a lot of concerned neighbors and friends to look out for her. When she got sick, there was no one to help her, and no local relatives to turn to for help. It was finally a concerned neighbor who got her to the hospital for the proper care that her condition demanded.

It brings to light the question; What alternative senior living options are there?

My mother long ago made a pact with four of her sisters to live together in one big house along with their spouses as an alternative to going into a nursing home. It seemed the best idea, to keep the care of each other to be shared among everybody. Not only would this keep them from all living alone, but it would also keep their minds active and alert longer.

This has become a very real alternative option; it’s called Home Sharing.

There are home-matching services that are springing up to match the demand for this alternative senior living. The idea is simple enough; you rent out rooms out of your house, and share the common spaces; or you could rent or buy a completely new house, and even purchase an owner’s share of the property. However you manage the arrangement, it will share living expenses, provide companionship and a sense of safety for the seniors.

I have one grandmother in a nursing home, and another grandmother who lives alone with her dog. The difference in age between them is about eight years, but the elder granny in the home is a shadow of her former self. Even with a stellar staff, a nursing home is not a home; it is a facility which services many individuals and looks to make a profit. My younger grandmother is soon to get a roommate in a friend that recently underwent surgery. I see the difference in the quality of life of these two women, and I see the need to change how we treat our seniors. There are other alternatives to the traditional institutional senior care beyond Home-Sharing, but the conversation needs to happen. We need to give the same quality of life to seniors that they gave to us.