A well-known show, The Golden Girls showcased four aging women who took a creative approach to senior living shared housing. But does the reality of home sharing for seniors actually compare to the situational sitcom many Americans know and love?
Read more about the benefits of shared housing for seniors below.
Shared housing is a long-term living arrangement between two unrelated people who choose to live together to take advantage of the mutual benefits it offers. How many older adults in the United States are home sharing? Its hard to say exactly, but:
According to AARP figures in 2013, four million women 50 and older were living in U.S. households with at least two women in the same age group,The Mercury News reports, noting that as people are living longer and facing rising health care and housing costs, shared housing can really fill a need.
Rodney Harrell, director of Livable Communitiesfor AARPs Public Policy Institute, toldThe Mercury Newsthat one of the things we hear a lot is that people do want to age in place. In our latest survey, 8 out of 10 people over 65 want to stay in their own homes or a home environment as long as possible. Shared housing is a great option for someone thats open to it, he says. It can provide companionship, save costs, and provide a feeling of security having other people in the home.
For older adults contemplating home sharing, there are plenty of benefits to consider, including:
Seniors who live together whether at home or in a retirement community live a healthier lifestyle because they usually eat better, get more exercise, and are more social than seniors who live alone. As with The Golden Girls, companionship, friendship and a support system are arguably the biggest benefits of home sharing, and are part of the reason the phenomenon is trending. But the benefits of companionship, friendship and support are also available to older adults in senior living communities. So why home share?
Doug and Mardi Tindal ofStratford, Ontariotold the CBCthat their retirement plans include finding a large house to buy and convert into six different units with shared spaces so they can live their golden years with their friends.
Each couple or individual would have their own bathroom, bedroom and some living space. Theyd share the kitchen, laundry and living room. Dinners would be eaten together, like a big family,the couple says. Were healthy, vibrant people were not decrepit going into this, were actually quite strong and resilient.
For older adults who are young at heart, theres an excitement that home sharing brings. Its kind of like dating, Tindaltold the CBCwhen asked about their process for selecting roommates. But, like dating, finding the right roommate can sometimes be a challenge.
For seniors who want to remain independent, but shouldnt live alone, home sharing offers a cost-effective alternative to home care.
Older adults who participate in shared housing can enjoy the safety of living with someone else, including not having to worry about forgetting medications (someone is there to remind you), or falling and not being found.
Home sharing is an affordable alternative to some senior living communities, making it ideal for low-income seniors.
The person who owns the home can charge rent to offset the costs of their house. Often, the homeowner charges a lower-than-average rent in exchange for help around the house, shared groceries, transportation etc. The homeowner and renter can also split the costs of the internet and other living expenses with the renter, making it a mutually beneficial living arrangement for all parties.
There are disadvantages to home sharing, and finding the right roommate is one of the biggest challenges. When you live in a retirement community you know that a team of professionals has screened the other residents, but when you participate in shared housing, that screening process is up to you.
Finding a roommate who is compatible, trustworthy and will pay their bills on time isnt necessarily easy. The best bet is to home share with a friend, or at least a friend of a friend. But even if you share housing with a friend, there can be drama.
There are services that exist to help connect older adults looking for housemates (theGolden Girls Networkis one). Still, like dating sites there is no guarantee that the matches you get will work out, and in a world where senior scams are on the rise, seniors should exert extreme caution when looking for a roommate.
If you decide to home share and you do find someone you get along with and trust, then its important that you talk about your expectations and set ground rules from the start. Some important considerations to set rules around include:
Shared housing if handled properly with upfront agreements is a vital option for seniors,Harrell says.
Ultimately, if youre going to go through with home sharing its critical to talk to a local attorney to get an agreement drawn up that outlines the expectations of both parties. Similar to a tenancy agreement, talk to your lawyer about including the ground rules (and consequences for breaking the agreement) in writing for the safety of both parties.
For many active older adults like the Tindals, shared housing is an fun, exciting option to make retirement savings last a little longer. But its not for everyone. Be cautious if going this route and ensure your own personal needs and safety are put first.
Do you think shared housing is a good option for you or a senior loved one in your family? Wed love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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Kimberley Fowler is a writer and editor dedicated to improving seniors lives through education, activism, volunteerism and community programs. Her other passions include yoga, literature, history, education and conservation. She is active in her local community and currently volunteers with the Hamilton Naturalists Club. Kimberley earned a Master of Arts in English Literature and Language from the University of Windsor, an Honours Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto. ViewKimberleys websiteor connect with her on Twitter @kimsfow andLinkedIn.
Please share your thoughts or comments on this article:
It can be tough when you realize that your elders have reached an age where they require special elder care. Of course, you would provide them good care at your own home, but unfortunately it is not always possible. Ultimately, you need to find thebest senior living servicesfor them and home sharing for seniors is good option.
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