Even if you aren't afraid of getting older — it is, after all, an inevitable fact of life — it can be scary to think that you might grow old alone. I used to say that if I were single in my golden years, I'd want to have one of my good girlfriends by my side. We could reminisce about the good ol' times, complain about the kids these days, and sip cocktails out of coconuts. Better yet, we could take care of each other in our old age. As it turns out, some female friends are doing just that, and then some.
Yesterday I came across this post on the New York Times's The New Old Age blog, about single women who have set up joint housekeeping and medical care agreements, so they know someone is looking out for them even if they don't have husbands or children as caretakers. For the details,
Despite the fact that mere friendships aren't afforded legal status in this country, some friends are formalizing their love for each other with unique arrangements. Explains author Jane Gross:
Another friend, Ann, shares my fantasy of setting up joint housekeeping, assuming she outlives her husband. Our thinking goes something like this: If one of us can see and the other hear, if one of us is mobile and the other cognitively intact, we'll muddle through as long as we can and then pool our insurance premiums to hire home care. We'd prefer to use the benefit for a masseuse and a manicurist but know it would be a hard sell to persuade MetLife that those were the kinds of "activities of daily living" our policies cover.
I’ve written before about pairs or small groups of unrelated women who are already doing this, some even constructing houses designed for their old age. But these arrangements, however cozy and comforting, exist outside the law, since friendship remains, and likely will always remain, an unsanctioned relationship with none of the legal rights granted to parents, children, spouses and, in some locations, domestic partners.
As Gross points out, caring for friends in their old age may only be an option for people who are financially independent, since paid time off for caretaking wouldn't apply. But if you had a retirement cushion that allowed you to enter into such an arrangement, it could be a lovely way to live out your golden years. What do you think? Would you ever consider something like this?