Retiring to the communeBlog added by Allen Greenberg on August 8, 2014
Allen Greenberg

Allen Greenberg

Denver, CO

Joined: May 29, 2013

You know what’s ironic? I mean, like, really dripping in teeth-gritting, forehead-slapping irony? The fact that many of those in the generation that brought us McMansions are going to have to consider living in communes when they get old. They’ll stop working and, thanks to woefully inadequate 401(k)s, will no longer be able to afford to live in the way to which they’ve grown accustomed.

I come from people who know a thing or two about communal living — you can travel to Israel to visit a kibbutz yourself ... or maybe just Google it until things in Gaza quiet down— but I think a lot of us are going to have trouble with this notion, especially as geezers set in their ways.

I mean, how does anyone expect a nation filled with people who can’t wait to become empty-nesters and can’t stand to be around their grandparents for more than an hour or two a week to suddenly all move in together?

It was like this before. Before the Industrial Revolution (and even for a time after it), we often lived together. Multiple generations, extended members of the family, all under one roof. And in a lot of cases, we’re talking about living spaces of no more than a few hundred square feet — at best.

But, of course, we got prosperous after World War II, built ever-larger homes and started living alone, or at least with fewer humans around.

So why should any of this change? Well, it’s nothing more complicated than because we’re not making enough money, life’s gotten way too expensive, the bills keep coming, and saving for retirement is a joke.

So it’s easy to imagine that larger groups of people will be living together again soon. In fact, we saw a glimmer of it when the Great Recession was at its height.

“The economy starts to tank. People get tired of it,” Daniel Howard, a specialist in consumer research and behavior at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, told the Associated Press in 2008. “It’s people saying, ‘Let’s get together and help one another.’ And it works.”

It sure does, saving everyone a lot of money in exchange for sharing bathrooms, showers, a kitchen and a dining room with, say, a couple dozen new friends.

Plenty of other people do this; it’s not just the Israelis.

The Amish, for example, certainly seem to have no problem living in close quarters. College students do it, too. It’s also big in Germany and Norway.

It might be too egalitarian for a lot of us. But for cash-strapped retired Americans everywhere, the commune could well become their dream home of the future.

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