Bolton Anthony: Housing options for women ‘of a certain age’

October 11, 2013 

Bolton Anthony


The popular TV sitcom “The Golden Girls” featured four previously married women – all “of a certain age” – who shared a house in Miami, negotiating together the challenges of a fixed income and living with strangers.

The boomers who watched the show during its seven-year run (1985-92) were just entering their 40s; and the four women they watched – the “smart one” Dorothy, the “sexy one” Blanche, the “old one” Sophia, and the (self-described) “nice one” Rose (played by the ageless Betty White) – were their mothers’ ages.

Now those same boomers – 25 years later – are themselves “of a certain age.” And the model of housing which “The Golden Girls” popularized – shared housing or the collaborative household – is attracting intense interest.

Since women continue to both outnumber and outlive men in America, there is much creative ferment in the search for housing solutions that serve women only. Those hoping to set up their own communal household can find books and websites aplenty, detailing what questions to ask, what boundaries to set, and other nuts and bolts of making this type of living arrangement work. Professional services have sprung up to help match potential sharing “partners,” allow them to contact one another confidentially, and search nationwide for short-term or long-term housing solutions

Marianne Kilkenny knows all about this. She founded the Women Living in Community Network several years back and touts the virtues of aging in community in workshops, conferences, and a soon-to-be-published book, “Your Quest for Home: A Guidebook to Find the Ideal Community for Your Later Years.” She has been interviewed about the financial, safety, and social benefits of the shared home model on NBC Nightly News, CBS Early Show, ABC News and NPR and has been featured in print articles in Smart Money, Fox Business, and More magazine. And she walks her talk, living in a collaborative household in Asheville, which she co-founded with four other adults.

Kilkenny and housemate Linda Williams will share their experience with the shared housing model at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Central Orange Senior Center, at 103 Meadowlands Drive in Hillsborough. The facilitated process that follows the presentation will allow attendees to connect with others with similar interests and take first steps forward making something new happen.

“Aging in Community: Planning for Our Future” – a monthly series exploring what is happening in housing innovation both here and across the country – kicked off in September when a standing-room-only audience of 250-plus heard architect, author, and visionary Sarah Susanka apply her “not so big” philosophy to the challenge of aging in community. The series concludes on Nov. 19 with a presentation by Dene Peterson, a former Glenmary nun who has won national honors for her work in founding ElderSpirit, an elder cohousing community in Abingdon, Va.

The series is being sponsored through a partnership that includes the Orange County Department on Aging, Charles House, and Second Journey. Carol Woods and Carolina Meadows Retirement Communities are generous supporters. For full details and a link to the reservation form, go to

Bolton Anthony is the founder of Second Journey, the general editor of the book, “Aging in Community,” and the co-host of “The Heart’s Desire,” a local film series in its third season at the Seymour Center that continues at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17.

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