I've been lonely at home since my husband died | Agony aunt

Dear Fiona: I am 78 and have lived alone since my husband died four years ago.

By Fiona Caine
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 3:15 pm

I made the decision to stay in the house we’d shared together for over 40 years. It was hard at first, being around the places and things that we’d shared because they reminded me constantly that he was gone. However, these things also gave me great memories, which helped me through the difficult times.

I will always miss him – but feel that I can now move on from grieving. I also realise that, at times, I feel quite lonely rattling around this house on my own. I don’t want to move, so I have been wondering if I should share my home with someone.

Ideally, I would like this to be with a friend, but they are all settled and living in their own homes quite happily. I have no family to speak of, other than a cousin in Canada and he’s wrapped up in running a big company. I have also thought about renting a room to a student but am worried about the age difference.

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A generic stock photo of a mature woman at home alone. Credit: Alamy/PA

I don’t really need the money, it’s the company I feel I need. Can you tell me how I find someone trustworthy to share my home?

H. W.

Fiona says: You have loads of options

Before I do, are you certain that this is what you really want to do? Sharing your home will require you to make some key decisions and a few compromises.

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Will you charge rent and, if so, how much? How will you share the cost of bills? What will you do in the event of a dispute?

In terms of compromises, could you cope with having less privacy? How would you feel if they decide to bring family, friends or lovers back to your house? What if they become ill – will you take care of them, and would you expect them to do this for you?

You should also be aware that people are often on their best behaviour at the start of things like this, and that bad or annoying habits will often surface after a while. Would you put up with these, or confront them over it?

I say these things not to put you off but to get you to start thinking about the possible consequences of sharing your home – and if loneliness is your main worry, perhaps consider tackling this first.

If you are able, get involved in more outside activities. It doesn’t matter what these are, just that they introduce you to new people. If you increase your contact with other people, you may realise that you don’t need to share your home.

However, if after this you still feel that you’d like the company and security of someone sharing your house, I suggest you talk firstly to your friends. It’s possible one of them may welcome the change or may know someone else who is suitable.

Like you, I am not sure about the student option, as I think they are unlikely to provide the companionship you need.

If you change your mind however, universities and colleges usually have a list of students looking for accommodation and language schools are always looking for host families.

For the latter, you can usually ask for more mature students (some run classes for retirees) and opt for short-term only. This way, any character clashes won’t last too long, though schools will re-home students if it doesn’t work out.

Another option is a home share agency, these look to pair elderly people with others needing accommodation, in return for some degree of home help.

However, these agencies are a new concept and usually charge a monthly fee – I don’t know that much about them and am also not sure what their safeguarding processes are, so please do consider things carefully.

For more information and advice, I suggest you contact Age UK (ageuk.org.uk) on 0800 055 6112. This charity offers guidance on a range of issues and can refer you to appropriate local help and activities. It also has several other resources, including a befriending service, that you may find useful.

Dear Fiona: My friend thinks I fancy her boyfriend

A friend of mine has been seeing a guy for about three years, they get on well together and I am happy for them. However, when I mentioned in video chat recently that I liked him, she got angry and hung up.

I called her back right away and have been calling her every day for a week, but she will not answer. She’s obviously avoiding me, but I don’t know why.

I didn’t mean that I fancied her boyfriend – only that he’s a good man and she’s lucky to have him. I hate the idea that I have lost a good friend over this. What should I do?

M. W.

FIONA SAYS: APOLOGISE AND EXPLAIN

It was possibly a bit tactless saying you ‘liked’ him, but I also wonder whether your friend’s overreaction is because her relationship is not as great as it appears?

If you want to rescue your friendship, you are going to have to find a way to contact her.

If she won’t pick up calls or video chats, try email or a good old-fashioned letter – or failing that, perhaps go and visit her?

When you do make contact, apologise, and make it clear that you were not expressing any interest in her boyfriend, only that you meant to say how good they were together.

If she’s the good friend you claim, she should be willing to accept this, if she isn’t, it’s very sad but you will just have to move on.