She was standing with her back turned to the street when my friend and I pulled in to park in front of his building. “No she’s definitely not getting the room!” My friend said immediately as she turned to look at us. There she stood, a slim short-haired lady in her late forties wearing cropped jeans and a canvas panama with a hip tote on her shoulder, and as my friend explained to me, she wouldn’t be able to live in an apartment with younger people who have “full time lives”. I felt bad for the woman who seemed to be so desperate to get a place that she brought first month/deposit amount in cash to her first showing, so me and my friend had spent hours and hours arguing about it after he politely turned her down.
Due to a number of reasons the amount of people in their forties and over looking for roommates has increased twice for the past two decades. Nothing special, just us, humans, coping with an economic crisis that had swept through the globe a few years ago. Unfortunately, statistics show that chances to find a roommate are on the slimmer side for people of older ages.
At the same time, a considerably large percentage of society feels that having a roommate is a nightmare that doesn’t worth the obvious benefits it has. Could that be because we are so caught up in stereotypes and fast-judging that we can’t see the obvious advantage of true sharing? Sharing is all about acceptance and all-inclusiveness if you really think about it and that is exactly why it works so well for us in difficult times. So why do we limit ourselves to searching for roommates who are a “good fit” for us? Why do we choose someone judging by the way they look and the way they talk often forgetting to check how we really feel about them? Could our past roommate experience be a much better one if only we removed the limitations we have created for ourselves when we searched for a roommate?
So what is it like to live with someone who is considerably older or younger than you?
“C.C. was … a 60-something globetrotter in the international medical relief field who wrote papers on health care in Central Africa, and who owned a newly renovated Wardman-style rowhouse in the gentrifying Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast D.C. And I, a college senior/unpaid intern/occasional waiter, lived in her basement.” – as blogger Matt Bevilacqua confessed in his post A Room in an Elderly Stranger’s House, and Other Places I’ve Lived.
“While waiting to move in to the beautiful north London home with Amie, the lady I’d been matched with, I happily daydreamed about having a grandmother figure to come home to after a long day at university. The reality was somewhat different. Amie (not her real name) had a very specific schedule that she wanted me to fit into, which with my MA demands and my part-time job wasn’t possible. Worse, she treated me as if I was an employee rather than a housemate.” – writes Nicola Slawson the author of I lived with an older person in return for cheap rent, but my chores quickly grew.
“The idea was that we were different, not like the rest of America, with its Fuzzbusters and shopping malls and rotating showerheads. “If it’s not new and shiny, they don’t want anything to do with it,” Rosemary would complain. “Give them the Liberty Bell and they’d bitch about the crack. That’s how folks are nowadays. I’ve seen it.” – As David Sedaris has it in His beautiful essay This Old House.
If you try searching “living with an elderly” online you will find tons of roommate stories beautiful and horrible alike but if you think about it, all of them have everything to do with the personalities interaction rather than age.
As for myself, looking back in the days when I was on a roommate hunt I can tell that I didn’t feel awkward about sharing an apartment with an elderly until I came across titles that read “anyone interested in a quiet elderly roommate?” Or something else equally miserable in it’s self-consciousness. If I shared my home with someone who’s older than me I would, first of all, see him or her as my roommate not as an elderly requiring a special treatment and a credit for being old. So, my dear elderly roommate seekers, don’t let you your age become a setback. You are only as old as you feel, or so they say. If you feel young enough to share a place with a stranger of any age then you’ll find your match.