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Shared housing: an option for the elderly

Skip Kuebel

In recent years, the baby boomer generation has seen a rise in shared housing, or a “Golden Girls” style of living, where rather than living alone, elderly people opt for roommates. There are plenty of reasons for older individuals, namely women, to consider living with a roommate or two, and to find out about some of those reasons, “Take Care” spoke with author, journalist, and baby boomer expert Sally Abrahms.

For one thing, people often want to stay in their homes and their communities. Having a roommate move in gives people the option of staying in their homes, with the potential for an informal caregiver or friend, Abrahms says. Not only that, but as the cost of housing and healthcare continues to climb, many people are seeking economical ways to afford residency.

And even those who can afford to live alone don’t necessarily want to. Sometimes, it’s about company, and further, safety. As Abrahms notes, the agency Silver Nest, which helps baby boomers find roommates, reports that 70 percent of their clients are women. This makes sense considering that statistically, women tend to outlive their husbands, and don’t always feel comfortable living alone.

Abrahms mentions that there is now a greater understanding of the “epidemic of loneliness” which can have physical and psychological consequences. There is also growing acceptance of the idea of the sharing economy, whereby people pool their resources. All of these reasons combined make shared housing a very viable option for elderly singles that live alone.

And each situation will be different, Abrahms says. For some, roommates will become close friends, while others might maintain a certain independence. In some instances, the roommates aren’t necessarily single. Sometimes, a couple might rent a house with other couples. Sometimes it could be two siblings. Other times, it may be a group of three or four women. And other times, it could be men, although Abrahms notes this is less common.

But regardless of whom they chose to live with and why, shared housing seems to be a great option for those in their later years who don’t want to live alone. For plenty of reasons, financial or personal, finding a roommate can have many benefits. And at the end of the day, many of us do appreciate someone there when we come home -- someone to talk to, someone to share a meal with, and of course, someone to help with the bills.

Many of the agencies available to find roommates will try to pair like-minded people, but Abrahms notes that, of course, it is important to do your own research. Background and credit checks are recommended to rule out any issues that could arise down the road. And further, establishing rules and expectations can help the transition of moving in together run smoothly.

With 70 percent of people over 65 living alone, it’s no wonder there has been a rise in shared housing among the elderly. And as Abrahms mentions, there are numerous agencies today specifically for finding roommates later in life. So, whether you’re looking for company in your home or a roommate to split the rent, “Golden Girl” living might be something to consider.