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Is Shared Living Right for You?

April 15, 2015

Have you ever considered living like The Golden Girls? Seriously! While the TV sitcom featuring four fabulous female housemates has been off the air for decades, the lifestyle inspired by the show is a growing national trend. Demographic data reveal that in the wake of the recession shared living for mature adults is on the rise. In 2000, there were 820,000 households where single people ages 46 to 64 shared housing with non-relatives, according to Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research. By 2013, that number had jumped to 1,090,000. That’s right—roommates aren’t just for college students anymore! People are looking for answers because housing cost are too high and they feel lonely when kids grow up and their spouse is no longer around. Many struggle financially. The shared living movement is being embraced as an exciting aging-in-place option, particularly among women.
Many women start thinking about shared living following a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or another major life event. When a divorce left me living alone in newly remodeled 5-bedroom home in 2008, I searched for and found four roommates to fill the bedrooms. Now more than eight years later, my housemates have become an important part of my life.  In addition to contributing rent that makes my mortgage affordable, we throw parties together, get to know one another’s friends, and help each other out. Are you wondering if sharing a house and household duties with like-minded women over 40 would work for you? The following is a list of qualities that make for a great housemate.

You’re looking to re-invent yourself. Perhaps you’re questioning the circumstances, meaning, and direction of your life and resolving to do things differently. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to surround yourself with other people seeking change? Sharing your home and life with other women who are “reinventing” provides laughter, companionship, and financial and emotional support as we go down that crooked path called life.

You have an extra room where you live. That home with all of those wonderful memories can begin feeling a little haunted when you’re the only one roaming around in it. Sharing a room in your home, townhouse, or apartment with a Gold housemate will give you someone to say “hello” to at the end of the day, someone to talk about your children with, and someone to call when your car breaks down.

You enjoy home-based activities. You enjoy cooking a meal and doing some gardening and getting some exercise. Now imagine how much more fun the meal planning and dirt digging and taking a walk could be with another person.  Shared living allows you to find like-minded people who can help transform the household duties into household delights.
You are healthy and not ready for assisted living or moving in with your children. The momentum we had as younger adults can feel like it’s stalling as we age. The end of a marriage, childrearing, or a career can leave us wondering what is next. Shared living is not a retirement home. In fact, finding the right shared living situation can open doors that allow you to take an exciting next step in your life.
You would like to make new friends. Perhaps that one person who received all of your unconditional love – a spouse, a child, a parent, a best friend – is no longer around. But we all deserve lives filled with laughter, joy, and companionship. Shared living can connect you with people who share your interests and value the unique qualities you bring to a friendship.
You can no longer afford to stay in your home by yourself. All kinds of circumstances – job loss, a divorce, an economic downturn – can make keeping that home you love difficult. By inviting a housemate to live with you, you can gain the confidence of financial stability while creating a welcoming environment for someone who might become a lifelong friend.
You are feeling a lack of community. Shared living can help you build your own “community” using the resource of your home. Find individuals interested in the same passions you have like cooking, the environment, or spirituality. Or, if you’re new to an area, you can quickly integrate into a community by becoming a member of a group household.
You feel like you’ve become too focused on your job. If your job or volunteer position or hobby feels like the only activity you have to occupy your time, your housemates can bring new energy to your life. Inspiration from others is what keeps us from stagnating.
You like activity in your home. If you’re the kind of person who likes to have a friend over for dinner, host a committee meeting, or invite a crowd at Thanksgiving, then you are a perfect housemate. All housing situations are different, but the best ones thrive on the energy of like-minded people living and having fun together.

Bonnie Moore is the founder of Golden Girls Network, the only nationwide network that helps mature adults find roommates and access the resources they need to make shared living work.  She teaches classes about shared living and is the author of How to Start a Golden Girls’ Home, which will be published in a second edition this spring.