Senior housing communities are one option for aging in place. AARP photo

Margaret Muir tried maintaining her big house by herself. She tried house-sitting and then renting an apartment at a senior housing complex, before finding a place that was right for her.

The retired teacher, 74, moved in with a friend in Bowdoinham, where the women, both widows, share expenses.

It meant a “substantial savings” for Muir, who after two years in the senior complex, felt it was not a good fit and reached out to her friend.

Muir, an eastern Maine native, moved with her husband to Bowdoinham in 1984. Her husband died suddenly in 2005. She sold the house in 2017 and moved into a senior housing apartment, where she lived for two years.

“The house was getting away from me in terms of maintenance, upkeep and cleaning,” Muir said in a recent telephone interview.

She feels lucky to be able to afford to live independently. Others are not so lucky.


“There is a real lack of senior affordable housing in Maine,” AARP State Director Lori Parham said. “While there are a number of higher-end assisted living options, there are few options for middle-income people.”

AARP offers help for people who choose to downsize to smaller homes or apartments or to care facilities, but more options are needed for the burgeoning elder population.

AARP senior move managers offer help with downsizing. AARP graphic

By 2030, one in five Americans is expected to be older than 65, and the nation will face a severe shortage of appropriate housing for them, according to the AARP Foundation.

“As people age, they need housing that is structurally and mechanically safe and that accommodates people with disabilities,” according to the foundation, which says it is developing strategies to address the senior housing crisis with affordable options.

In Maine, the problem is even greater, according to a study commissioned by the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition.

Based on 2012 U.S. Census data, about one-third of the state’s population was 55 or older, the highest percentage in the country. That is expected to grow by 13% by 2022, according to the study.


Sharing a home is a growing trend among seniors. This option allows them to “age in place,” meaning they live in a place of their choosing.

It has worked well for Muir, who has avoided the “cap on the toothpaste” issues of sharing a living space, she said.

“I’m lucky because I have my own bedroom, my own bathroom and my own sitting room,” she said. “My friend and I agree on 98% of things. We are both very active and very independent.”

What matters most, she said, is assessing what is key to your contentment.

For example, gardening is important to her, and she now has a small garden. But there might be issues if you want to put plants on someone else’s property, she said.

It is best to work out these things before moving in.


“Issues of values, habits and beliefs and religion never occurred to me before I moved to the apartment and before I lived with my friend,” Muir said.

She said, for example, if recycling and composting are part of your belief system, those things really matter to you.

As a member of the Bowdoinham Committee on Aging, Muir advises people to do a self-assessment and some in-depth questioning before moving into any kind of facility.

“One of the issues for me is literally how you become dependent, and what kind of support you need and want, and what is both appropriate and sensitive,” she said.

This applies not only to sharing space but how that space is managed, she said.

The committee is putting together a guide to help people age in place, whether at their own homes or a shared space, and to move into a care facility when they cannot be independent.

Becoming dependent in a way that works for you is most important, she said.

“The real reasons (for moving into a care facility) are health and strength,” Muir said. “I know many elders for whom that was a turning point.”

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