As a uni student I became familiar with the practice of student share households in which an ordinary house is occupied by as many students as there are bedrooms (on average). The concept of sharing with friends and living independently of parents was very attractive. The way in which friends in such households opened them to friends to visit and sleep-over at was a part of what made the sharing attractive. Once I got the chance (in my case at the same time I graduated) I jumped at it. It can be a mixed experience. If one shares with friends it can test those friendships. If one advertises for housemates then it is very much a case of 'luck of the draw' (I have had both good and bad housemates drawn from wider society). Overall however I think it is a worthwhile experience. It has similar 'economy-of-scale' benefits as a family home (I have never owned white goods) while allowing for so much more freedom in personal life-decisions. Even if one has decent relations with ones family it can still be a worthwhile growth experience in terms of self-sufficiency skills and decision-making ability. And it can be fantastic fun.
I have noticed in the time since I have lived in share households that they have become more scarce among younger friends. It seems to take longer for a young person to move away from home and live independently. I am told that this is the result of rising costs of living (including property costs spilling over into rental costs) but I think there is more to it than that. Expectations of living standard have also changed. It feels more difficult now to be frugal. Discretional spending decisions are now made that focus more on possessing things than in having a life-enriching experience.
There are also cultural factors that limit how many of us will experience share households. It is deemed okay for uni students to do that kind of thing but is considered peculiar for older persons to do so. This is despite the fact that in past times the concept of (say) a family taking in adults to help cover costs was a common one. I think that the share household model may be a useful one for far more in society than currently utilise it. Even the elderly.
Consider the things that the elderly as a lobby lament most frequently - cost-of-living and loneliness. Understandably they resist getting put into nursing homes but in the process they live alone in huge homes they find difficult to manage. But an elderly share household provides company and minimises costs while staving off the need to be institutionalised. But assumptions of how one is supposed to behave at particular ages will make this a minority practice among the elderly.
There are other models I have never experienced such as living alone (except for as much as a month at a time while house-sitting) and living communally (except for as much as a week for the purpose of camps or conferences). And there is yet another - cohabiting with ones partner only - that will be a new one for me. And as I contemplate putting the share household practice behind me I think it a pity that many of my younger friends are missing out on something that has been very good for me.
Labels: Life Experiences