shared-home-ownership Photo Credit David Joyce

Four Durham Region women have turned to a Golden Girls-type solution to take them into their golden years.

The four characters of the popular TV series shared a house in Miami. The real-life Canadian female quartet, ages 65 to 72, will become joint owners of a 3,500-square-foot renovated home in downtown Port Perry at the end of October. Two are widowed and two are divorced.

Retired Humber College dean Louise Bardswich and her friend Martha Casson, a retired Humber registrar, pondered their future living options; living solo in an apartment or condo, or in a retirement residence didn’t appeal to them.

Shared home ownership seemed like a logical solution, and Bardswich points out that many homes are jointly owned by family members. What’s different about this scenario is that the women are not related and some of them were relative strangers.

shared-home-ownership-port-perry The Port Perry house, with construction well underway.

Bardswich and Casson approached local contractor John Lucyk, who purchased an older home in Port Perry within walking distance of amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacy, banks, cafes and stores, to renovate to accommodate four individual owners. Toronto Rehabilitation Institute staff reviewed the plans and made recommendations for what features should be included to allow the women to age in place. For instance, an elevator has been installed and the front entry is ramped.

The four will share the kitchen, living and dining rooms, TV room, laundry room and large porch, but will each have a private bedroom and bathroom. A caregiver suite has been added in the basement to accommodate a personal support worker in future, should one or more of the residents need one.

Each woman contributed $250,000 for her 25 per cent ownership share in the home, which freed up some equity from sales of their former houses for them to spend travelling or helping their children. Bardswich says the arrangement provides benefits such as companionship, worry-free travel and safety. She anticipates their total monthly expenses will be $700 to $1,000 each, including a generous allowance for a cleaning service.

They have a comprehensive legal agreement in place, covering everything from what happens to their shares if they wish to sell, die or become incapacitated, to rules about overnight guests.

The women have been working with a designer on the home’s interior and Bardswich says the materials selection process has gone smoothly. The women agreed that any furniture they contribute to be used in the common areas will belong to the house, rather than the individual.

Bardswich and Casson have talked to several groups about the shared home ownership concept, which she says is rare in Canada but common in countries such as England.

“People seem pretty receptive, but it’s a huge hurdle for people to get their heads around,” says Barswich. “Not everyone can do it and even now, I have my worries. But when I think about the alternatives, there aren’t any. I don’t want to live with my kids and don’t want to end up in a retirement home.”

To read more about the real-life Golden Girls’ home, click on

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