Midlife Divorce: Housing Options For Older Divorced Women

Submitted by: Erica

Divorcées who sink try desperately to maintain their old lifestyle because radical change is too frightening. Divorcées who swim plunge into new ways of living. Are you reading to take the plunge?

My favorite example is from Calling It Quits: Late Life Divorce and Starting Over by Deirdre Bair. She interviewed a divorcée who wanted to keep her Spanish-hacienda-style house in an exclusive area of Southern California but simply couldn’t afford the mortgage.

So she rented the house for a year at $15,000 a month to a European executive while she advertised her services as a house and pet sitter. She wound up living the whole year for free, and was planning to do the same thing for another year at an even higher rent, after which she’d be set for life.

There were some unexpected benefits: She was delighted with her year of itinerant life, saying it was a “well-earned vacation” that was also physically good for her. She lost weight from walking dogs three to four times a day; she made friends with other dog walkers, and even dated two of them. Now, that is thinking outside the box.

Consider the movement among seniors to live communally, which will help you pool resources. Co-housing communities are becoming more popular-they allow residents to own their own homes but pool a variety of resources, plus alleviate loneliness through communal activities such as nightly shared dinners. These communities aren’t necessarily cheap, but if you can afford co-housing it’s a great way to transition to a new life after a midlife divorce. If you find a mate, or want to share your house with family, that’s allowed as well. Check out www.cohousing.org.

A recent AARP study found that more than a third of the 1,200-plus women forty-five and older surveyed said they’d be interested in sharing a house with friends or other women, as long as it included private space. “Communal living is catching on among divorced people,” says Bair, citing as an example a group of first wives of wealthy men, women who pooled money from their divorce settlements to buy a four-story brownstone in New York City that none of them could have afforded alone. They dine together every night so no one hides in her room and becomes too depressed to get out of bed. This sounds terribly appealing to me. I wish I could move in with them.

Communal living can also mean renting out part of your house, like I do. My renters, a lovely young couple, have become my support system as well as my tenants. They take care of the yard work and any heavy maintenance, and I know I can call on them if I need help. They bring me Latino dishes when they make something special, and I share extra food with them that’s too much for me to finish myself. It’s very reassuring to me to know they’re there, plus I rely on the income. I’ve rented my garage as a workshop to a couple of carpenters, and if something needs fixing, I know they’re around.

Some divorcées stay in their houses and take in boarders, or roommates, others sell their homes and move to condos, and still others move in with their kids. This may sound like a drastic solution, but it can work well if you get along with your children, and you have your own space.

The secret is to take chances, be adventurous, don’t rule out unorthodox financial solutions.