The Golden Girls of Barrhaven: A new spin on retirement living

Are you a Senior?  Do you live alone, wish you didn’t, but are not ready for a retirement home?  Loneliness has been touted as one of the top health hazards for older people and three Ottawa women took matters into their own hands this year. To change this, they joined a growing trend of women who have decided to set up housekeeping together.

All three, Barbara Lehmann, Cate Whitsitt and myself, Hilary Robinson, are members of the Barrhaven Seniors Council and met each other two years ago at the Monday morning 'Drop In'. We are all single now, widowed or divorced, and living alone had lost its charm.  All grandmothers, we wanted to stay in Barrhaven to be close to family and other friends. As previous homeowners, we had sold our homes and were all renting small apartments. The three of us soon became friends and last November we decided to take a leap of faith and move in together.

“It’s mostly the evenings”, one of the women explained. She added, “We are all busy during the day, but it gets lonely at night.”

It was also not having enough space to entertain properly. Myself and Cate rented the bottom half of large houses, and Barb was living in an apartment building. While happy enough with our arrangements, we agreed that it would be much nicer to share a large house, which we would all be able to afford because the rent, utilities, cable and food would be divided by three. We would be able to have our shared friends over for dinner and get-togethers more easily.

None of us wanted the structure of co-housing, or retirement-style living. We wanted to continue to live as we had done, with the maximum amount of freedom, but with the support and cost saving that went with sharing. Our friends call us the “Golden Girls of Barrhaven”, after the popular T.V. sitcom from the 80s (only in their case they decided they had one Blanche and two Dorothys!).

We began to look for houses after the Christmas rush had died down, checking daily on Kijiji and other real estate sites, and enlisting the help of a Barrhaven real estate agent. Several homes were picked as possibilities, but rejected for various reasons. We wanted a four bedroom house with a finished basement, double car garage, double laneway, and garden, in an established neighbourhood. While some had most of these features, either the basement wasn’t finished properly, it was in the wrong neighbourhood, there was no proper garden, or it just didn’t feel right.

March rolled around and I left for a two week vacation but we stayed in touch, and kept looking. Then one day I got a call from Cate:

“We’ve found the house!  Are you willing to rent it without seeing it?”. . .