When we decided to move to Pittsburgh for a year,
to help take care of granddaughter Lydia,
we thought it would be important to have a place of our own.
The more intimate the work, the greater the need for two-family-privacy, was the idea.
So we moved into one apartment and later into another.
But as the house renovation project
unfolded and Kate, Nik, and Lydia moved into their new space,
we offered to move in with them to the third floor.
They said yes enthusiastically.
Everything in our third-floor space is simple.
We aren’t complete minimalists, like our writer friend Laurie Buchanan,
and we could never claim to be Tiny House Foodies, like Carmen Shenk.
But we have a new appreciation of their deliberate choices to pare down to the basics.
We often look around us in our 1000 square feet of space and say,
“All we need is here.”
The Amish have a simple solution for how to house grandparents:
just add another addition to the farm house
or build a small house nearby
the Dawdi Haus or grandparent house.
If you go to Apple Creek, OH, you can stay in an AirBnB version.
So “dawdi haus” is one more name we sometimes give our space.
But self-sufficiency is one thing. Privacy is another.
How is the close proximity to our family members working out?
From our perspective, great!
We don’t eavesdrop or feel claustrophobic.
We’ve taken a dozen trips and kept our regular work schedules.
We can “babysit” at night while Lydia sleeps downstairs,
the monitor on her crib allowing us to be sure she is safe.
We use texts extensively to communicate during the day, whether from the first floor to the third floor or
from one building to another.
Every day is different as we offer our services on a “most needed” basis:
errands, cooking, childcare, laundry, or cleaning.
We also get to host others.
Last week my college friends stayed in two of Kate and Nik’s AirBnB units,
and we had a blast exploring Pittsburgh and playing with Lydia.
When we leave in a month, we are going to miss this view.
We hope Kate, Nik, and Lydia have benefited as much as we have with this arrangement.
They are quick to express gratitude in many ways great and small.
My friend Rachel Miller is doing another version of shared residency.
She has children scattered in two places: New York City and Austin, TX.
She’s retired in Brooklyn, which is a city she loves,
but she knows she won’t always be able to run up and down three flights of stairs there.
She and her daughter have found a creative solution to both now and later needs. Here’s how she describes the decision her daughter’s family made:
They decided that their one car garage, which was just a “catchall” could be turned into a Mommie Haus for about half the price of many of the tiny houses. I was surprised with the level of relief I felt to take care of this now, and not wait until there is an emergency in the future. So, we feel we have the best of two worlds. I have a place in Brooklyn that I will keep for as long as I can but when I do go to TX, I have my own space.
I have a feeling that many of my friends of a certain age, and many young families, are having similar conversations.
What creative housing arrangements are you aware of?
What do you think makes the best space for older-age living? I’d love to have your comments below.