Recently, I wrote an article here on The Huffington Post titled "Women's Worst Fear After 50? It's Not What You Think." It generated thousands of shares and comments, and landed me on several of the morning talk shows. It was a wake-up call for everyone about the state of women today, especially those who are over 50 and either unemployed or underemployed, living alone (since statistically women live longer than men and an increasing number of women are divorced), lacking in good health care options and inching their way toward poverty.
According to the National Women's Law Center, more than 16.4 million women -- that's more than one in eight -- lived in poverty in 2009. This number included more than half a million single women with children who held full-time jobs and the elderly women more than twice as likely to live in poverty as elderly men. Seventeen percent of women age 65 and over live alone in poverty.
What's more, the recent Women in America report issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce states that women who live alone have the lowest median income of any type of household.
It's no surprise, then, that the greatest fear of most women I polled for my article was this: not having enough money to live a decent life after 50.
An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette referenced many of the statistics supporting this fear:
For women who stay home to raise a family or care for an aging parent or sick child, their "reward" is years of accumulated "zeroes" in Social Security credits toward retirement.
And there is another shift that will affect all of us, but especially Baby Boomer women: The number of unmarried women has tripled in the past 50 years to 55 million. Who will care for aging unmarried women, who are likely to spend nearly a third of their lives in retirement without pensions or enough in their 401ks?
Last week, I was invited to be a guest on the WPIX 11 "Morning Show" to talk about money and women over 50, and specifically, to discuss solutions. Take a look at this short segment, and guess which suggestion resonated the most.
If you guessed that we should think outside the box about how to save money and pool resources by living together a la' "The Golden Girls" ... you are right. And why not? There are many benefits to living as a group -- the best, of course, being that you will not live your later years alone. Other strong reasons why creating a "shared space" -- as I suggest it should be called -- could be beneficial to women, as well as men and even couples, include:
- Finances will be pooled, lessening the financial burden of each person.
- Household duties and meal preparations will be shared.
- Positive social structures will be formed.
- Car-pooling can be established for work and social activities.
- Job-sharing can be considered by two or more people in the home, allowing each to be employed but enjoy more leisure time.
- The dynamic of the group is a positive contributor to healthier living.
- It's a viable option to assisted living.
One of the most significant social contributors to a happier, healthier, even longer life is staying connected to others as we age. Women excel at this, compared to men, which is one of the reasons why women tend to live longer than men. To create a "built-in" social network that has the added benefit of easing financial stress is a logical and positive progression and an idea that will, no doubt, gain traction as more and more Baby Boomers become intimately acquainted with the common financial burdens of aging.
The key to a successful shared space is to develop a set of guidelines to which all participants (even if there are only two) are expected to adhere. There will be many considerations that should be discussed and agreed to prior to the start of the shared space, including when to have visitors, what parts of the space are considered private and public, who will manage the finances and so on.
Some women I spoke with about this recently said they would jump at the chance to live in a shared space with like-minded women, and that they'd view this as a kind of "summer camp" for adults. One friend had this thought: "Life can be hard, especially as we get older. Why not make it more fun, and less of a struggle?"
Are you, or is anyone you know, living in a shared space situation? Please tell us your story.
Staying connected is a powerful tool. "Friend" me on Facebook and "tweet" me on Twitter (@BGrufferman). For more information about living your best life after 50 with health, vitality and style, please visit my website: www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Be well, and be in touch.
* * *
2011 New York City Marathon Weekly Training Countdown (20 weeks to go)
I'm running in the NYC Marathon in November to celebrate my 55th birthday and raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, in memory of a friend who succumbed to the disease last year. Here's an update on my training schedule for this week:
Saturday: 5 miles using a run/walk ratio of 3 minutes/30 seconds
Monday: 5 miles using a run/walk ratio of 3 minutes/30 seconds
Thursday: 12 miles with using a run/walk ratio of 30 seconds/30 seconds
Every other week, I'll be adding another mile or so to the long run (keeping the two short runs the same distance), and I will be adding "speed work" to my training. Stay tuned!
For more information on the Jeff Galloway Run/Walk/Run Method, check out his website, www.jeffgalloway.com.
HuffPost Women sends stories about relationships, politics, sex, work, culture and body image, straight to your inbox three days a week. Learn more