For aging baby boomer women, living with friends fills emotional and financial needs

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By Irene Sege, Globe Staff | October 15, 2007

The custom-built ranch house in West Barnstable that Elizabeth Quinn, Janet Goldrick, and their three dachshunds share may look like one more gracious family home in a Cape Cod subdivision. Really it’s a fully accessible, carefully planned old-folks-home-in-waiting, occupied by active 60-something friends anticipating the frailty of longevity.

One hundred miles to the north, in Amesbury, longtime friends Edith Heyck and Adair Rowland, both divorcees in their 50s, solved their financial problems when Heyck rented the attic suite of the cozy Victorian duplex that Adair owns.

These women herald a trend that experts expect to grow as the baby boom generation heads into retirement. Almost half of women between the ages of 45 and 59 surveyed by AARP last year consider living with a friend an attractive way to grow old. So do a third of women in their 60s and above.

Both demographics and disposition suggest plenty of boomer women will be in a position to do so. Not only do women outlive men, but boomers are more likely to have remained single or to be divorced than prior generations. A generation of women that redefined everything from marriage to motherhood to menopause will likely redefine aging as well.

“There are all sorts of reasons this will probably take place,” says Rebecca G. Adams, a University of North Carolina sociologist who studies adult friendships. “Baby boomer women have been on their own more than previous cohorts have. . . . Many women who lived a very traditional married life are feminists and likely to want to return to an all-female environment.

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