Aside from the fact that flat-sharing and communal living can cut individuals housing budgets or enable them to live in better areas/accomodation (see the article about 'What can I save by sharing?'), it’s clear that at any stage in life we continue to strive for the companionship, company and community the co-living can offer.
As is summed up nicely in a recent Independent article by Sarah Morrison “the idea of communal living is no longer just a retreat from the pressures of modern-day life, but, increasingly, a way to confront and overcome some of its failings”.
This demand for collaboration and valuing experience over ownership has allowed a growing co-living market to develop in the UK. Taking a modern approach to communal living, the largest and most publicised of these has been The Collective in west London. It encourages an “inclusive community”, organising social events and networking opportunities, with shared facilities such as restaurants and bars. Despite the potential mass appeal of this lifestyle it continues to targeted at younger markets, focussing on “millennials” who we are reminded value “experiences not possessions”.
However, with the increasing demand noted above, there is no reason that schemes like these shouldn’t be pointed towards to older generations. As GDR Innovation Researcher Lamorna Byford says “for a certain type of person at the right time in his or her life – this could be a fantastic place”. Increasingly it seems that time in life may be later than the market is currently catering for.
Of course, this type of living isn’t for everyone. There are a variety of reasons whysome people wouldn’t choose to live with others. For many it is the practicalities, or their perceptions of these, which can be a turn off. The insecurity of renting is one, although this could be just as big an issue in a rented one bedroom flat as it is in a shared home.
Furthermore, older tenants, such as recent Guardian interviewee Rachel Churney, may worry about the different stage of life they are at compared with their potentially younger counterparts. But these laments are not about the idea of co-living, but situations that may arise from it due to a lack for services for older people trying to finding others in a similar situation with whom they have things in common with.
And finally, there is the perception of older people looking to live in a communal environment possibly being viewed as unusual. Potential renters over 40 often find they receive lower responses to adverts once they disclose their age. These barriers illustrate that the market is crying out for a service to accommodate the needs of older people in their pursuit of finding a co-living environment, seeking like-minded people and security in their living situation, just like their younger equivalents.
All in all, changing context– moves towards renting and away from buying, an increasingly interconnected society where living alone may have less appeal, the increasing articulation of the benefits of having a community in the home beyond the family - may point more of us towards a lifestyle of communal living, not just the young. Thus, the opportunities co-living offers can and should be offered to all of us, including those later in life. The hope for camaraderie, community and cut costs don’t stop at 30, and nor should the opportunities to find these in our homes.