Shared Housing – Did the Golden Girls Have it Right?

March 8, 2018 by Cheryl Proska in For Individuals

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of people over the age of 75 living alone is to set to reach 13.4 million by 2035. Women will make up 75% of this group. (Senior Planet; Aging with an Attitude 10/16/17)

Home Sharing: What is it?

“Home sharing” is a popular term in the housing industry. This refers to two or more people living under the same roof, each sharing the communal areas while maintaining a private space. This can involve a homeowner renting out their spare rooms, or several people buying or renting a space that’s new to everyone.

All over the country home-matching services are springing up to meet the demand of people wanting to share their homes with others. Many of us remember the television series, “The Golden Girls,” which was the gold standard for home sharing. The idea of sharing one’s home is something people may start to consider as they grow older and their lives/situations change.

Is Home Sharing Right for You?

While it’s not ideal for everyone, the benefits of home sharing can be extraordinary. Adding a companion or two saves you money on living expenses, reduces your risk of social isolation, and helps you to feel more safe and secure. Consider these questions if you’re contemplating making this change:

    • Could you use additional income?
    • Would you like to reduce housing costs?
    • Do you need help with chores?
    • Are you willing to share your home?

If you answered yes to some of these questions, then home sharing might be an option for you.

Where to Begin

Committing to sharing your space with an “outsider” is a major decision. Just like any other big life change, taking this step requires thought and preparation. Here are some important questions to think about before jumping into home sharing.

“Who would I share my home with?”

In most cases the pairing is between two or more older adults of or around the same age. Although some may be family or close friends, home sharers are often unrelated. They are individuals with more home than they need or can afford, people looking to downsize on a budget, or seniors on a fixed budget looking for safe, affordable housing.

“Would home-sharing help me financially?”

Finances usually play a major role. According to a recent survey by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the rising costs of health care, increased life expectancy, and lower interest rates have resulted in financial stress for seniors. Sharing your home makes sense if it’s no longer affordable for you to stay there by yourself.

“What are important factors when considering a roommate?”

Before searching for a housemate, take a moment to think about yourself and your current situation. Are you prepared to share a space? Do you have specific guidelines you’d expect others to follow as well? Would you be willing to make changes or compromises to accommodate a potential roommate’s needs? Establishing your expectations early will not only set a precedent for your search, but also help you discover if home sharing is right for you.

“How do I know if someone is a good choice for me?”

Sharing a space with someone you don’t mesh with is a recipe for disaster. So before signing on the dotted line, make sure to do your research. Ask about their sleeping and eating habits, personality, interests and daily schedules. Are they a smoker? Do they have pets or would they mind living with yours? If you need help with daily chores such as cooking or cleaning, would they be willing to pitch in in lieu of rent? It’s also important to find out if you are well-matched in how you like the home kept. If you like to go to bed with a clean kitchen, having someone who doesn’t mind a sink full of dishes might not be the right fit for you!

For the safety of everyone involved, consider running a background check. Many house sharing organizations handle this for you, but nonprofit services and eldercare professionals are also available to help with the screening process.


Home Sharing Resources

Is home sharing an option you’re interested in trying? Here are some resources to get you started!

National Shared Housing Resource Center – (215) 765-0084

Home of the Sparrow – (610) 647-4940


Home sharing is not for everyone. Sharing “your” space can have its own set of issues but is also a great way being able to stay in your home when life changes.  Having a flexible attitude and being open to change can go a long way in making this a successful endeavor

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