Seniors: Communal Living Revisited

Nov 30th, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Within the last year we addressed here an experience in senior citizen communal living.  After a year of living with extended members of our family, it is time to revisit the pros and cons of such an arrangement.

Simply put, communal living is an arrangement by which persons choose to live together in a shared domicile. The dimensions, agreements, contract, understandings have all been agreed to.  The partners in the agreement choose to live out a specific period of time together.

We knew we were embarking on a trail that had little if any directions or maps.  We knew there was almost nothing available to tell us how to create a communal living arrangement.  We were three sisters and husbands of two of the sisters.  We knew we would have fun, challenge, convenience, and irritating moments, and hopefully help in dealing with senior health issues.  Communal living offers all that.  We knew that when we entered the agreement.  We think we have learned some things.  And we would like to share that learning with those of you who may be considering communal living. 

  • Does everyone in the group typically get along? Is there a line drawn that disallows seeds for conflict and major misunderstandings? If so, admit them, put them on the table in advance and decide if they can be tolerated.
  • Do pet peeves create discord and dissension on a regular basis? Identify these behaviors. Talk about them. Find ways to reduce, eliminate, tolerate and help minimize these behaviors. If eliminating them isn’t practical, find ways to dance around them with humor.
  • What does the group share in common in the way of activities, willingness to take on household chores, ability for each person to do his/her part?
  • Have the issues involving shared expenses been addressed? Can each person contribute fairly and appropriately to the household budget? If not what are the tradeoffs?
  • What are the habits of persons within the household that may make for tension? Will everyone be able to do his/her part in keeping the house clean and pleasant in appearance and order?
  • Is space sufficient to allow for some privacy and get away time?
  • Will pets be included? If so, how will they be managed within the household? Is this a potential for conflict and discomfort? How about allergies?
  • Will all parties have independent means for transportation?  If not, are they able to make arrangements without creating unwanted imposition on others in the household?
  • What understandings will be in place for guests and visitors?
  • Should there be a written agreement made and agreed to by all?  How do re-negotiations occur?

Following on a thorough discussion and examination of all these issues, and whatever others may emerge, the group then can move to decide whether they think living together will work, or not.  This is a time to be forthright and totally honest; comfortable communal living requires that of all participants.   

Think it through. Put pencil and paper to it. Sleep on it. Decide rationally and finally.  Don’t carry any illusions into the arrangement. 

What would I do, if I were considering such a living agreement for a second time? I would go through this process with studied detachment. I cannot say whether I would do it again, knowing it depends a lot on the parties involved. I wouldn’t just say yes out of hand. I wouldn’t say no right away. I would give it a lot of thought.



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