Identical twin sisters who have shared a home with their husbands and children for a staggering 24 year are downsizing – so they can spend their retirement together.
Inseparable Jo Hatfield and Diane Howell, both 58, live together with their husbands – both retired policemen – and four children in perfect harmony under one roof.
Born just ten minutes apart, they describe each other as their ‘other half’ and even share a job running a bridal wear shop together.
The pair say they are lucky to have such “laid back” husbands in Chas, 58, who is married to Diane, and Jo’s husband, Graham, 60.
But now their children have flown the nest the twins are downsizing their family home for a smaller one – so they can continue living together in retirement.
The sisters said the only thing they regret is not moving in together sooner and vowed to stay together “til death do us part”.
Mother-of-two Jo said: “We are considering a move – but it will be both families moving together.
“We would like a smaller garden as we are getting older and do not have as much time to manage it.
“We have considered building a new house in the garden of our current home so we have the convenience of not moving, but have a smaller garden.”
The grandmother-of-three added: “Everyone finds it hard to believe we all live together.
“But there are no secrets, no issues and anything we have to say, we say to each other as a group.
“We also have the same household account which both couples put the same amount into each month.
“The house isn’t split at all – we share one kitchen, one dining room and one lounge. The only thing we don’t share are husbands.
“It is lovely as we still have 12 to 16 people round the dinner table for Sunday lunch. We think it is really important to keep the whole family together.”
Grandmother-of-two Diane said: “Our solicitors advised us against us moving in together – they thought it wouldn’t work, but we made it work.
“We had a massive garden for the kids to run around in and if the men were on shift work, Jo and I had each other and the kids for company.
“Our friends have become their friends and visa versa and overcrowding has never been an issue.
“Jo and I are from a big family and have never felt we needed our own space.
“We don’t have arguments – we’d rather call them ‘discussions’ which we compromise on and they hardly crop-up.
“Perhaps it’s because there’s always someone else around that both couples feel they have to be better behaved.
“There’s probably a lot of married couples who row more than we do.
“Jo and I have always been really close and living together like this is so much fun.
“People think it means twice the work because it’s twice the number of people, but it’s half the work if anything, everyone chips in.
“If we have any regrets at all, it’s that we didn’t all move in together earlier.
“And if we decide to move in the future, we’ll all move together, that’s a dead cert.
“Til death do us part.”
The mother-of-two added: “Our lives went in tandem from the very beginning. We both had our tonsils out at four, and we had hernia operations within a couple of weeks of each other at the age of 47.
“We’ve never felt the need to differentiate ourselves – if one of us got a new haircut and it looked good, the other would go out and get one exactly the same.”
Jo and Diane decided to move their families in to one big house – a four-bedroom, semi-detached former doctor’s surgery – in Maidstone, Kent, in 1989.
Before the couples’ children flew the crowded house, Diane’s girls, Tracy, 33 and Vicky, 31 and Jo’s daughter Nicola, 34, shared a bedroom in the loft.
Jo’s son Christopher, 32, slept in one of three upstairs bedrooms with the parents occupying the other two.
Despite the children moving out and living with their own families, the mothers still share childminding duties.
And Jo, Diane and three of their daughters run a bridal shop called Jodi in Maidstone, Kent, with Diane’s husband Chas doing the menswear.
Jo met Graham at an old-fashioned dinner dance she had gone to with Diane when they were 16 and they married in 1973.
A year later Diane met her future husband Chas at a bus stop and plucked up the courage to ask him out.
The sisters were bridesmaids at each other’s weddings and initially lived just a few streets apart in Maidstone, Kent.
But they decided to move in together at the suggestion of their family because they spent so much time chatting on the phone.
Graham, who was a policeman, encouraged Chas to join the local force with him, and Diane and Jo started a job share at an estate agent’s.
The two couples spend Christmas and holidays together and even go out to dinner as a foursome on Valentine’s Day.
The only night of the year reserved for each couple is their wedding anniversary.