Amazing things happen when women help other women. (Kasia Gospos)

Sisters Sharing Space began as a Facebook group originally created by Karen Smith in October, 2015. She had recently sold a house, and was spending 2 years house sitting (ample time to consider her next move, or so she thought). Watching real estate prices soar, and finding very few affordable options to suit her needs, she began to wonder what other “older” women in her situation were doing with their living arrangements. A little research into shared living models revealed some interesting, if daunting, possibilities in various parts of the world. Could this work locally, in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario? To find out, and to seek out kindred spirits in the journey, she created Sisters Sharing Space. After inviting a few women friends to join the group, membership soon spread. Group posts and activity first focused on ideas about sharing living models suitable for “older” women, and included articles about models from around the world. The first meet-up was held in March, 2017 over brunch, where six members got to know each other better and talked about their shared interests. From that first discussion, a core group emerged and began meeting regularly (pot luck dinners with adult beverages quickly became a favourite meeting format).

With each meeting, we learn more about each other and about the dreams and aspirations we have each nurtured over the course of our diverse lives. That in itself has been a rewarding and fascinating part of this journey – getting to know each other, be inspired by each other, and laugh together. One member quipped at our first gathering “At the very least I’ll need to have drinks with you before I’ll know if I can share space with you!”.

We have created a safe space for asking questions (lots of those) and examining our intentions for the future. There are no right or wrong concepts, no set plans, and no real limits at this stage in our contemplation. Yes, we are discovering some “deal breakers” and very strong preferences, and as these are identified we narrow our parameters a little more and set our course appropriately. For example, we have opted to explore models and options for women only – while men will be welcome as visitors and guests, residents will be women (including those who identify as women and trans women). We have also talked about issues related to mobility and accessibility, health and wellness, sustainable living, safety and security, independence, community, and shared vs. personal space considerations. And we’ve only just begun!

Some of the shared living models we’ve discovered to date are projects that were years in development. From the Harbourside community in Sooke, BC to OWCH in the UK or the Babayagas’ House in Paris, France, projects that succeed take time to come to fruition. So, while most in our group are yet to retire, we know we have to start thinking about our options sooner rather than later. We have found inspiration from a diverse array of sources, including the Older Women’s Network, Women for Living in Community, ¬†Women’s Housing Initiative Manitoba, and grassroots examples including four women in Port Perry, Ontario and the¬†Saettedammen community in Denmark.

It’s early days, and we have much still to consider and talk about (more potlucks!). And there are still many questions!

  • what about pets – yes, no, how many, what type, any restrictions?
  • how best to approach shared expenses (from outdoor maintenance to light bulbs in a communal space)?
  • how might we fit our preferred model into local and provincial regulations governing building, housing, etc?
  • what is the best legal structure to accommodate our needs?
  • how best to anticipate residents leaving our shared arrangement, and what are the best exit strategies?

Our core group, for now, is happy to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of research, but that doesn’t mean others might not be involved down the road. This blog will document the shared exploration of Sisters Sharing Space, and feature some of the resources and information we collect along the way that may prove helpful to others. Where we find material to share, we will provide credit and source information whenever we have it. Where we share original material or content, on our site or in this blog, we ask readers to respect our copyright protection and to ask permission before using or sharing our material. To join our Facebook group, please be in touch (at this stage it’s still not a public group, so members must ask to be added).

Contact Email: SistersSharingSpace@bell.net