by Ellen Blake
“Live with a stranger? No Way!”
Seniors sharing homes is a growing trend, yet I hear this statement all the time. But people are starting to rethink their living situations. For example, my active and youthful friend, Marilyn, was widowed last year at age 56. She and her husband planned to grow old together in the house where they raised their children, but Marilyn did not want to continue to live there by herself. The upkeep and expense were too much to handle alone, and the silence was deafening. Though the decision to sell the family home was emotional and difficult, choosing where to go next proved even more so. Marilyn’s situation is not uncommon for single boomers, and as a result, many people, particularly women, are now considering unique options like house sharing, a relatively new trend.
What is House Sharing?
No two situations are the same, but basically, house sharing, also called co-housing, is when two or more unrelated people live in the same home while retaining their own private space inside the residence. It is a new way for people to meet their housing needs. Whether the roommates are close friends or simply share space comfortably, sharing a home is a good way to ease financial burdens and encourage social engagement. Seniors sharing houses can support each other and enjoy each other’s company while sharing responsibilities. A home-share situation can also provide physical support, as in the case where an older adult who wants to stay in their home rents a room to a college student in exchange for help around the house.
“The Golden Girls”: A Classic Example of Home Sharing
“The Golden Girls”, the popular American television sitcom starring Bea Arthur, aired from 1985 to 1992. The show revolves around four older women, Blanche Devereaux, Rose Nylund, Dorothy Zbornak, and Sophia Petrillo, who live together in a house in Miami, Florida.
These four women, all in their later years, come together to share a home and create a close-knit family-like bond. They support each other through the ups and downs of life, providing companionship, humor, and friendship as they navigate the challenges of aging together.
The show’s premise exemplifies the concept of home sharing or senior co-housing, where older adults choose to live together in a shared living space for various reasons, including companionship, cost-sharing, and mutual support. “The Golden Girls” not only entertained audiences over the years but also showcased the positive aspects of home sharing and the value of strong friendships in the senior years.
Advantages of House Sharing
There are a variety of benefits for seniors sharing homes.
- Ease financial burdens
- Security in knowing one isn’t alone in case of medical emergency or burglary.
- Complementary abilities—one may drive and help in that manner while the other pays a bit more of the bills.
- Peace of mind for adult children who live far away.
- The comfort and ease of being able to stay in one’s own home or a comfortable setting indefinitely.
- Shared household responsibilities
Disadvantages of House Sharing
Despite the many advantages of senior house sharing, there are also some disadvantages.
- Less privacy.
- Different standards of cleanliness.
- Too many guests invited by one of the occupants.
- Financial irresponsibility or instability of one occupant, affecting all occupants.
- Incompatible pets.
- One person dominating a shared area.
What About Personal Space in Shared Housing Situations?
Good question. Personal space is an important consideration in senior shared housing, just as it is in any shared living arrangement. Older adults, like people of any age, value their privacy and need a sense of personal space to feel comfortable and respected. Here are some ways for individuals to address personal space in shared housing situations.
Define Private and Common Areas
Clearly define which areas of the house are considered private for each individual and which areas are shared among all housemates. This might include individual bedrooms as private spaces and common areas like the living room, kitchen, and garden as shared spaces.
Encourage open and honest communication among all housemates about their personal space preferences. Discuss how each person defines personal boundaries and how they can be respected.
Establish House Rules
Together, create house rules that address personal space, such as knocking before entering someone’s room, respecting quiet hours, and keeping shared spaces tidy.
Everyone needs to respect each other’s personal space and privacy. Knocking on doors before entering and avoiding unnecessary intrusion into private areas shows consideration and respect.
Designate Relaxation Spaces
Create spaces within the shared home where individuals can go to relax and have some alone time. This could be a reading nook, a corner in the garden, or a cozy spot in the living room.
Encourage each person to personalize their bedroom as they see fit. Having a space that reflects their personality and preferences can contribute to a sense of comfort and ownership.
Scheduled Alone Time
Consider implementing scheduled alone time or personal time for each housemate. This could be a few hours during the day when everyone can have their private space without interruption.
Use Headphones or Earplugs
In shared living spaces, using headphones or earplugs can be helpful if someone needs quiet time while others are engaging in activities that generate noise.
Encourage Outside Activities
Encourage housemates to pursue activities outside the home to give each other space when needed. Engaging in individual hobbies, outings, or socializing with others can provide healthy breaks from shared living.
Promoting a culture of respect, open communication, and understanding is key to ensuring everyone’s personal space needs are met. By considering each other’s preferences and creating a harmonious living environment, shared housing with seniors can be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for all.
How Do You Create a Sense of Community and Make It Fun Living Together?
Living together can be a blast. Housemates can plan fun activities, eat meals together, or simply enjoy each other’s company. They can also mark special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries with celebrations. In many situations, housemates share their skills and hobbies. It could be anything from knitting, playing a musical instrument, or teaching a new recipe. Small gestures go a long way in making someone feel valued.
The foundation of a successful house-sharing situation is based on mutual respect, open communication, and a shared commitment to creating a home filled with joy, support, and laughter. By embracing each other’s uniqueness and fostering a positive environment, living together becomes a rewarding experience for all.
How Do Older Adults Find Their Perfect Housemate(s) for Home-Sharing?
It’s like finding a new friend! Seniors can look for potential housemates through local senior centers, community groups, or online platforms designed for this purpose.
Where to Find a Roommate Online
Many websites exist to help older adults find roommates. Below are a few that are free to sign up.
NSHRC is a network of independent non-profit home-sharing programs across the United States. This organization acts as a clearinghouse of information for those looking to find a shared housing opportunity in their community to help a program get started.
A one-stop-shop online home-sharing platform that pairs boomers, retirees, empty nesters, and other older adults with compatible housemates for long-term rent arrangements. Through these creative living situations, homeowners earn extra income, remain in their homes longer, and keep isolation at bay, while renters pay far less than market rent. Both enjoy companionship and the efficiencies that come with sharing space.
An online housemate service catering to older adults. They match elders who have more homes than they need or can afford with elders on a fixed income who are looking for safe, affordable housing. Many users are empty-nesters, widows, or widowers.
ALA acts as an intermediary to screen both providers and seekers. They match compatible roommates, execute roommate agreements, and monitor ongoing matches. The average age of people using this service is 65, and the average match lasts 2.5 years.
Is Home Sharing for You?
The answer depends on your personality and your situation. Are you able to compromise? Do you consider yourself a good communicator? What are your pet peeves? Sharing a space requires acceptance and tolerance; it is not a decision to be taken lightly. For many single boomers, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. For others, there are too many negatives.
Senior house sharing is a growing trend offering several benefits to older adults looking for alternative housing options. People aged 50+ are enriching their lives by choosing this type of living situation. Doing so helps them cut expenses, boost their social connections, and increase their safety support systems. House sharing might be a good option for you. Are you a single boomer who thinks you might enjoy having a roommate or two?
Senior house-sharing is a cool concept! It’s where older adults team up and live together, sharing expenses and enjoying each other’s company like a family.
Q: What are the perks of senior house sharing?
A: There are many great perks to home sharing for seniors. You can save money, make new friends, combat loneliness and isolation, and even share household chores.
Q: What if I need some “me time” and privacy in a shared home?
No worries at all! In senior house-sharing, everyone respects each other’s space. You do need to work together though to define private areas and ensure everyone feels comfortable.
Q: How can you handle disagreements in a friendly way?
A: Open chats and understanding are the keys to success. Those involved should talk things out if there’s a bump on the road and find solutions together.
Q: Can we invite friends or our grandkids over?
A: Of course! It’s your home and can invite whoever you like.