5 Suggestions for Roommates in a Pandemic

The last several months have brought enormous changes to the way we work, study, shop, travel and live. Whether we live alone or with a roommate, many of the mainstays of our lives have transformed during this pandemic. Despite these changes, one thing remains the same: we all want a safe, comfortable place to call home at the end of the day.

If you’re sheltering-in-place with a roommate, it’s likely that you’ve found yourself spending more time together—and perhaps depending on each other a little more these days. We know that many of the considerations related to COVID-19 are uncharted territory for roommates, so we compiled a few tips to help you and your roommate get on the same page and to serve as a reminder that we’re all in this together!

Whether you and your roommate have an established relationship, or you’re just getting to know each other, these helpful hints can help make sure you’re both looking out for each other.

1. Stay informed

Some guidelines are changing rapidly, but there are some great sources of evidence-based information out there! Regularly check your local and state policies on business openings, gatherings, and mask-wearing. Statewide information can be found on Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services website.  Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for general physical and mental health information. When you find a trusted news source, bookmark it on your computer or follow them on social media, so it’s easy to check back later.

2. Make time for COVID-19 conversations

When it comes to the coronavirus prevention, it’s important for you and your roommate to be on the same page. Set aside time to sit down together and talk about your shared preferences and concerns. If you have a new roommate moving in, arrange for a phone call before they move in to talk about what you both are comfortable with. It’s always easier to set guidelines on the front end!

You might want to consider discussing cleaning/disinfecting schedules, social distancing, and special precautions if one of you is an essential worker or in a vulnerable group. Since you’re both probably spending more time at home than usual, it’s also worth discussing expectations around privacy or personal time. If you or your roommate is working from home, check out this blog for additional tips!

It might feel strange to talk in detail about your plan for grocery shopping or watching TV, but it’s important for the health of your roommate relationship that both of you understand each other’s concerns and agree on certain arrangements.

3. Follow precautions

There is no vaccine for COVID-19, so the best way we can prevent illness is by preventing exposure. You’ve probably seen these tips before, but we think they’re worth sharing again!

  • Wash (or sanitize) your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and face
  • As much as possible, try to avoid close contact with other people you do not live with (6 feet rule)
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with an elbow, tissue or mask
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (think doorknobs, light switches, cell phones, faucets, desks, counters, etc.)

4. Plan ahead

We hope that both you and your roommate stay safe and healthy, but it’s important to have a game plan in the event that one of you does contract COVID-19. We recommend exchanging emergency contact information with your roommate and saving it in an easily accessible place. This is also a good opportunity for both of you to make sure you have copies of health insurance information, primary care physician contact info, and medication and allergy information on hand.

If you are a caregiver for a friend, relative, or pet, make a back-up plan for their care, just in case.

5. Enjoy each other’s company

While there are some important considerations to have in mind when living with another person, don’t forget that you can be great supports for each other, too! Ask how your roommate is doing, and genuinely listen to their answer. Have some fun together by finding activities you both enjoy or striking up an interesting conversation. Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know each other better and explore shared interests.

Summary

Without a doubt, these are challenging times. But, with some careful planning and a little empathy, you and your roommate can be set up for success!

We know there’s a lot of uncertainty right now and if you’re feeling easily overwhelmed, know that you’re not alone. Don’t forget to take care of yourself by checking in with loved ones, getting exercise, and doing activities you enjoy. A few weeks ago, we shared a few stories of people across generations supporting each other and having fun, which brightened our day. We hope it brightens yours, too!

Preparing Your Home for Your New Roommate

Many of us have spent the last several weeks quarantining at home. If you’re sick of watching TV, baking bread or video chatting, we recommend using your time at home to start your spring cleaning! It’s the perfect time of year to open up your windows and do a deep clean of your house. Plus, if you’re considering opening up your home to a new roommate, now might be the perfect time to prepare your space! We’ve heard from several of our homeowners that a new roommate moving in was the excuse they needed to finally tackle household projects they’d been putting off! If you do have a new housemate moving in, check out these tips on how set you and your roommate up for success!

Whether you’re cleaning out a room to make space for a new housemate, or simply reorganizing your home, today we’re sharing some helpful cleaning tips that will leave your home sparkling!

Make a Schedule

First, consider your goals and your timeline. Your approach will be different if you’re hoping to declutter the garage by the end of the summer versus needing to have the guest bedroom ready to go by your new housemate’s move-in day. Start by establishing your goals, surveying the space you want to clean and jotting down a to-do list. Make a game plan and stick to it!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a room in your house, start small. For example, focus on cleaning out the kitchen cupboards first, then work your way up to the whole kitchen.

Not sure where to start? This Room by Room Checklist gives guidance on how to approach each space in your home.

Inventory your Cleaning Supplies

Take a peek at the cleaning supplies you have on hand and safely dispose of anything that’s expired or empty. Re-stock what you need, but there’s no need to go overboard. Although you can find a cleaning product for everything, to save yourself money and a headache, consider a trusted all-purpose cleaner. However, be careful on surfaces like wood or marble, which may need specialized products. If you have sensitivities or allergies, be conscious of any irritants your cleaners may contain. You also may want to consider buying (or making) environmentally-friendly, chemical-free cleaning products.

Before you start cleaning a space, make sure your supplies are easily accessible!

Be Systematic

Once you start cleaning, make a step-by-step process for yourself. If you’re cleaning your full house, go room by room. If you’re working on one room, break it down into smaller, more manageable sections (remember the kitchen cupboards?).

Once you determine your area of focus (a room, garage, or closet, for example), start by organizing clutter. Make piles of what you will keep, store, donate, or throw away. Once things are sorted, you can deep clean. Work from top to bottom to avoid having to clean again since dislodged dust or debris can fall on furniture or the floor.

Don’t shy aware from those particularly intimidating spots, like junk drawers and ceiling fans.

Ask for Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by tasks—or the physical demands associated with major cleaning endeavors—ask for help! If you live with other people, make sure they’re involved as much as possible. Live alone? Ask a friend or family member to lend a hand or keep you company while you’re working. Take breaks as needed.

Plan Ahead

As you make progress, it can be useful to pay attention to where the messiest areas in your house are. Once you know your problem areas, you can brainstorm ways to prevent mess from accumulating moving forward. Use this 4-Step Process to assess sources of mess and problem solve.

When you’re done, take a moment to celebrate your progress–you’ve worked hard to organize your space in a way you like! Now, you might consider how you can keep it that way. This is also a great opportunity to make some new cleaning habits for yourself. Even setting aside just a few minutes every few days to tidy up can make a difference! What small things can you do to keep your space clutter-free and clean in the future?

Good Luck!

Don’t be intimidated–you’ve got this! Keep your enthusiasm high by listening to your favorite music and celebrating the progress you’ve made. Most importantly, make time to enjoy your new, organized space!

If you’re preparing your space for a new housemate, remember that in the future, you’ll have an extra set of hands to help with some of these household projects!

How Two Generations Facing Loneliness & High Housing Costs Became Housemates

Before Yuki, an international college student, returned home to Japan due to the coronavirus outbreak, she and Amy (a physician) had been happily living together in Amy’s University City home for months. Despite their age difference, Amy and Yuki enjoyed each other’s company and bonded over their love of Amy’s cats. They both appreciate the financial benefits of home-sharing, but that’s not their main motivation for participating in Odd Couples Housing. They agree that the main advantage of living together is feeling more connected and less lonely. 

Amy and Yuki were among the people interviewed last week on Saint Louis Public Radio (NPR) by host Sarah Fenske. Last Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air episode also featured Odd Couples Housing Co-Founder, John Levis, and Director, Brian Carpenter who discussed the company’s mission and how we work. Tune in to hear the interviews!

Pandemic Housemates

Like Amy and Yuki, many of our homeowners and their roommates are glad to have companionship while sheltering-at-home. We’ve stayed in touch with our matches during this difficult time, and are happy to report that all is well. We especially enjoyed hearing from the daughter of one of our longest-standing matches who told us that having a younger person living with her mom has given her considerable peace of mind. She said, “especially during the pandemic, it has been such a gift to have them there. The Odd Couples Housing program has been a lifesaver and a true blessing for our family!”

We’re happy that our roommate matches are able to support each other right now. Who are your biggest supports during this time? How do you stay connected with them? Take time to check in with your friends and family, seek things out that make you smile, and find ways to keep your mind and body active. 

Whether you live with housemates, family members, or by yourself, you’re probably adjusting to increased time at home. Limiting social time and activities can be hard. But, it can also create time to think about what you’re grateful for, reconnect with loved ones, and plan for the future. We don’t know what life might look like in the coming months, but we have a feeling that we won’t be taking our social connections for granted! 

Did You Enjoy Hearing Yuki & Amy On The Radio?

If you enjoyed hearing Yuki and Amy’s story, we recommend tuning into this episode of The Mark Reardon Show. Earlier this year, another Odd Couples Housing match (Erika and Diane) shared their experience as roommates on the air. Start at 9:25. 

If the home-sharing situation might be a good fit for you–-now or in the future–-please sign up on our website.

Intergenerational Camaraderie in Challenging Times

Lately, much of the media coverage around the coronavirus seems to pit generations against each other. While it may be tempting to point fingers or get swept up in these stories of millenials vs. boomers, old vs. young or us vs. them, these lines of thinking aren’t accurate or constructive. And, they make it difficult to bring generations together to do productive things like problem-solve and provide mutual support.

The coronavirus affects all of us, regardless of age, and now is an important time to come together.

At Odd Couples Housing, nothing makes us smile more than people in different life stages teaming up to support each other. It’s what inspires us and our roommate matches! We’ve spoken to a few of our matches this week, and they’ve been happy to have some company while sheltering in place at home. Hearing from them was a bright spot in our week!

What are the bright spots in your week? How are you keeping your spirits up?  If you need to hear some good news, we have some inspiring stories about people of all ages stepping up to help their community and cheer up their loved ones!

  1. Feeling antsy inside your house? Check out this young girl and her grandfather enjoying a socially-distant dance competition.
  1. Jayde Powell, a college student in Nevada, saw a gap in access to grocery delivery services among elderly residents in her community. She devised a plan to meet their needs. Danny Goldberg, a California high-schooler, had a similar idea and created an online platform where older adults can send their grocery orders to a volunteer delivery team.

  1. Celebrating special occasions can be hard when we can’t be physically together. Despite the distance, this family was able to celebrate their grandma’s 100th birthday!
  1. Dr. Jane Bedell had only been retired a few weeks when the coronavirus pandemic reached New York. Since then, she has put her plans to travel, and visit family on hold and is preparing to go back to work. She is one of the thousands of retired healthcare workers returning to the workforce to combat Covid-19.

  1. These 91 year-old twin sisters are quarantining together in their San Diego apartment–and finding ways to have some fun! Check out the daily pep rally they host for their retirement community from their balcony.

  1. Ali Jaffe is self-quarantining in New York and her grandma, Roslyn, is doing the same in Florida. But that’s not stopping Ali from learning her grandma’s favorite recipes–which are full of surprises–virtually! Listen to Ali and Roslyn’s story here.

Although we’re in complicated and challenging times, we are inspired by people coming together across generations to support each other. We hope you stay safe and healthy, and we’ll be on the look out for other good stories to share.

Coronavirus and Older Adults: What Resources Are Available

Like many companies that work with older adults and college students in America, we’ve been watching the coronavirus situation as it evolves. We understand that COVID-19 could have vast impacts and we are taking current circumstances seriously. We are paying particular attention to the ways COVID-19 could affect the people we most often work with: students and senior communities.

You probably know that many colleges and universities have closed due to COVID-19. As you might imagine, this created a challenging situation for many students. In a previous blog, we highlighted some go-to resources specifically for college students. The main concern is that many students–especially international students–were asked to leave their on-campus housing and don’t have a place to go. Times of crisis remind us of just how critical it is to support one another during challenging periods. For this reason, we are so impressed by several of our homeowners who stepped up to help by offering rooms in their homes for displaced students. Thank you! 

At Odd Couples Housing, we do our best to put older generations and students at the heart of everything we do. Because of this, we want to make sure you are staying up to date on news about coronavirus. When it comes to the coronavirus, things have been changing quickly, and we want to make sure you are aware of your resources and prepared, in case it touches your community. Moreover, we want to share some coronavirus-related initiatives and a few tips to help you stay connected.

First and most importantly, please be sure to follow reliable sources that have up-to-date guidance such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just to mention a few. We also encourage you to vigilantly follow guidelines from public health officials and to continue to monitor news from local authorities. A lot of experts are sharing information about COVID-19, so be sure to read their tips and advice on how people can protect themselves.

Secondly, we recommend that you consider using social media. Whether you’re a regular user or new to social media platforms, now is a great time to engage online. There are a lot of helpful social media platforms that have brought different groups of people together. You might try a Facebook group or app. Some pages and groups were created with the intention of sharing news updates, some are helping educate people, and some just want to connect people for socializing purposes. There are also pages that focus on local volunteer opportunities that you could use to both provide and receive support.

One great Facebook group matches people wanting to help others with those needing help during the coronavirus pandemic.  Although the page cannot guarantee that everyone’s needs will be met, it has “brought people together as a community and hopes that this allows positive things to happen.” Anyone needing help can fill out this form

Thirdly, since older adults have an increased risk of having serious COVID-19 related health concerns, (and some areas have stay-at-home orders) many people are concerned about going to the pharmacy to get medication. Thankfully, Walgreens and CVS have offered to deliver people’s prescriptions or complete essential online order with no delivery fee. Read more here. Furthermore, the two pharmacies mentioned above and Walmart will also loan their space for coronavirus tests.

Last but not least, it is understandable that those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 would be cautious about entering public spaces during this time. This makes it difficult to complete daily tasks, like buying food. Thankfully, many grocery store chains and other retailers have delivery options. Others are also setting aside certain hours exclusively for older adults to shop. The stores offering these special hours include Whole Foods, Target, Schnucks, and Dollar General, just to mention a few.

Lastly, here are just a few more resources for seniors in the  St.Louis area who might need meals, transportation, and any other help. If you need food but can’t afford it contact St.Louis Food Bank and St. Louis Area Agency on Aging. The St. Louis Area Agency on Aging does not just deliver meals but also provides transportation like Aging Ahead.

We also encourage you to take care of yourself and don’t become too isolated. Call a family member, email an old friend, or learn to text or video chat to stay in touch! Try to keep to your normal routine as much as possible, even if your activities have changed. This means keeping up with your usual wake-up, sleep, and mealtime routines. Also, challenge yourself to do some kind of movement every day. Staying connected, engaged and active can help you adjust to the many changes happening in the world.

In conclusion, we want you to know that there are resources available to support you during this challenging time. It is a weird time for all of us, but we are confident that we will get through this together! Our thoughts are with all of you and we hope you’re safe and healthy. Take care of yourselves and each other, and please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Debunking The Generation Gap

Baby Boomers, you’ve probably heard a lot about the millennials. And millennials, I’m sure you’ve heard a thing or two about the Silent Generation. So, where did these generational delineations come from, and what about the stereotypes that accompany them?

The Generation Gap is defined as “differences of outlook or opinion between people of different generations.” It’s often used to explain perceived differentiation between people of varying ages and feeds some of the generalities made about the behaviors of people in different generations. It could help explain why you may get some skeptical looks when you bring up intergenerational living to your friends or family members! 

Take a look at the chart below to see where generations are commonly divided:

It’s easy to make assumptions about people based on when they were born. But, does our age define our opinions, talents, interests, and motivations? A study from the Cambridge University Press on intergenerational differences in the workplace says, not so much. In their words, “there is little solid empirical evidence supporting generationally based differences and almost no theory behind why such differences should even exist.” Simply put, you might have more in common with a differently-aged roommate than you think! 

Take technology use–this is a classic example of something that is often seen as a dividing force between generations. Millennials and Gen X-ers have a reputation for being too tech-dependent while Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation are seen as being out of touch with technological advances. However, a recent study from the Pew Research Center showed that that older generations are adopting technology at high rates. Nearly 70% of Baby Boomers have a smartphone! And just as interesting, while the rates of social media use have stayed steady for Millennials in the past several years, they have grown by at least 10% for both Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. 

All this to say, the generation gap might not be so very big after all! If you’re thinking about ways to make connections with people of different age groups, intergenerational living could be a good fit for you. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know someone of different ages, debunk myths, learn a new perspective, and share what you know with another person!

Aging in the 21st Century: Challenge and Opportunity

Odd Couples Housing has the pleasure of working directly with Dr. Brian Carpenter, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Carpenter, whose research and teaching focuses on aging, has a pulse on the challenges and opportunities of an aging society. He offers new perspectives and raises important questions about the changes we’ll face in our homes, communities, and the national front, as the U.S. population grows increasingly silver. At Odd Couples Housing, we’ve learned much from Dr. Carpenter  to support our mission to create a sustainable future through inter-generational home sharing.

Recently, Dr. Carpenter recorded a brief Ted Talk style lecture that highlights key themes for those considering inter-generational living. We recommend you watch it. The graphics are particularly powerful. Below, we’ve summarized the main take-away from Dr. Carpenter’s talk and we’ve posed a few questions to help you think about our aging society.

Did you know the world’s population is aging? 

The number of adults over the age of 65 has grown steadily over the last 100 years, and it is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future. As the baby boomer generation ages, we will see more and more people living into their later life. In fact, we are already seeing the demographic shift towards an older population, with expectations that the U.S. population over the age of 65 will double by 2060. Interestingly, the age group that is growing the fastest in terms of its proportion of the total population are our centenarians, or those over 100. 

How will this affect your own life, now and in the future?

What are the implications of an aging society?

In coming years, our population will begin to resemble the demographics of Florida, where approximately 20% of the population is over 65 years old. This shift towards an older demographic will impact many areas of our daily lives. It will affect health care, transportation, technology, finances, travel, leisure, culture, and of course, housing.

Where do you see indications that the U.S. is growing older?

What about Aging in Place?

Many older adults prefer to stay in their homes and communities as they age. While aging in place has many advantages, there are also challenges on many fronts.  Physical changes can impact mobility, cognition and ability to live independently. Financial changes can threaten a person’s ability to maintain a home. Changes in social networks might mean that a person is more isolated in their home.

Have you thought about where you or your loved ones would like to age? How will you plan to meet their needs?  

Why is remaining socially connected so important?

Staying connected to a social network or support system is vitally important for people throughout their lives.  As we grow older, the psychological benefits of social engagement are particularly powerful. Research indicates that strong social networks are associated with lower risk of depression and dementia, and higher life satisfaction. 

What do you do to stay connected to your friends and social networks?

How does inter-generational connection help?

Socializing with people across age groups is a vibrant form of social connection. Through inter-generational interactions, both younger and older people can learn new skills and perspectives that help to break down age-related stereotypes. When we spend time with different generations, we are more likely to engage with people as individuals, rather than lumping them into a trope or stereotyped category. 

How can you connect more frequently with individuals from another generation? 

If this has piqued your interest, Dr. Carpenter makes many more fascinating points about what it means to live in an aging society in his full talk. Consider setting aside ten minutes of your day to watch! 

What are the challenges and the opportunities we will face in years ahead in response to the aging of our population?

Happy Housing Anniversary!

If you’ve been following Odd Couples Housing, you probably recognize Nagesh and Sally. They were one of the first matches that we set up and have shared their experiences on STLMade (link) and the Ladue News (link) (any others?). Sally is a retired Associate Dean of Communications at Webster University and loves spending time with her cuddly boxer, Tank. Nagesh is a current graduate student at Webster where he is busy earning two Master’s degrees. 

October 23rd marked the one year anniversary of Sally and Nagesh becoming roommates. We caught up with the pair about the past year and what the Odd Couples Housing match has meant to them. 

“I got so lucky,” Sally said, “It’s been very smooth. It’s very win-win.” Nagesh is originally from Mumbai and Sally noted that some of the favorite things she has learned from him are related to Indian food and Nagesh’s keen cooking abilities. Aside from learning about Nagesh and Indian food, Sally has also learned some things about herself in the past year. Most salient? “Learn to let go. I don’t have to be a parent.”

Nagesh was also effusive in his description of the past year with Sally and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share her home. Living with her helped him feel settled in St. Louis, focus on school, and most importantly, “find a home away from home.” 

When asked about what year two will hold for the pair, Sally sighs. Nagesh will be graduating soon and most likely leave the St. Louis area. She will be sad when he moves out, but made it clear that she is ready for the next young person Odd Couples Housing sends her way!

And Sally’s advice for new roommate pairs?

“Live and let live–acceptance is key. You teach me and I’ll teach you.”


Living with a Roommate Who Works from Home

For some, the days of packing a lunch, getting dressed up, and going to work are long gone. Whether it’s every day or occasionally, at least 43% of American spend some time working remotely each year. Despite being fairly common, many people are not familiar with this new work structure. If your new roommate works from home, you may be wondering, “What does this mean for me?”