Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia. Do these names sound familiar? They’re the characters from the hit TV comedy The Golden Girls whose adventures we enjoyed 30 years ago. Well, the time for older women (and men) to share a house with roommates has come again, but this time in real life.
Bonnie Moore found herself alone at age 63 after she and her husband split up. They had just finished remodelling their home, and now here she was with a dream house and a mortgage she couldn’t afford.
Then the recession hit. Moore was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place: She couldn’t sell up and downsize, and she couldn’t risk defaulting. Her solution? Home sharing.
So in 2008, Moore founded her first Golden Girl Networks home in her house, where she still lives with several housemates. Realizing that many other single women were in similar circumstances, in 2014 Moore launched her house sharing online database for homeowners and roommates, the Golden Girls Network. Today, it’s one of several online house sharing online services for older people.
“There’s almost a crisis where women are ending up single over the age of 50 and not expecting it,” Moore says. “Middle-age divorce is an epidemic. It’s a statistic that people don’t talk about very much, but it’s out there.”
According to projections by the Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of people over the age of 75 living alone is set to nearly double—from 6.9 million in 2015 to 13.4 million in 2035. Many seniors will have limited financial resources for housing, and women will make up nearly 75 percent of this group.
That’s just one reason why house sharing among older people is on the rise.
The Upside to Having a Housemate
The biggest advantage to house sharing is cost-sharing. If you have one housemate paying half of your rent or 50 percent of the costs of home ownership, your Social Security check will go that much further. Likewise, if your rent is getting too high, you can opt to move into someone else’s house. But besides cost sharing, there are other benefits, too.
Help. If you need help at home as well as extra income, you can opt for a bartering arrangement— reduced rent for services provided by a roommate, such as yard work, shopping or transportation. If you’re healthy and fit, you can take advantage of this type of low-rent arrangement.
Companionship. Whether you’re sharing your own house or moving into someone else’s, house sharing can decrease your cost of living; it can also help you guard against loneliness. “It’s nice to come home, open the door and have someone say, ‘How was your day?’” Moore says. Even if roommates are off in their rooms, you know that someone else is in the house or will be walking in the door soon. Each living situation is different, and sharing runs the gamut from housemates who become friends and socialize to others who have more of a landlord-tenant relationship. It depends on personal preferences, daily schedules and personalities. But even more distant roomies usually tend to get together for a potluck meal on a fairly regular basis.
Health & Safety. We laugh at the TV commercial, but living with a roommate can mitigate the “I’ve fallen...