How to find a roommate if you’re older and needing to share costs
Q. I am in my mid-60s and married to a wonderful, much older man. I hope he lives forever! Being practical, I need to plan for my financial security. How do I go about finding a roommate to share housing expenses if I find myself living alone? I would like to stay in my same neighborhood if possible. Where do I begin? E.T.
Remember “The Golden Girls”? Who can forget Rose, Dorothy, Blanche and Sophia? This sitcom showcased four roommates sharing almost everything, drawing attention to what we today call senior housing. Few thought the Golden Girls model would morph into a trend of older adults seeking roommates or housemates. Although this trend is small, it is growing.
Selecting the right roommate requires some homework. Consider the following helpful checklist compiled by Agewise Colorado:
Check out references. Call them and ask about their experience with the candidates regarding their integrity, honesty, communication skills and cleanliness.
Determine if candidates are financially stable. Do they pass credit and background checks?
Check their names on the Internet and see if there are any red-flag warning signs.
Find out if the person is able to live independently, both physically and mentally?
Identify your deal breakers. Are pets ok? How about overnight guests and use of alcohol?
Does this person share your values? Are they considerate? Do they respect other people’s property? Is this person neat and tidy or does it not matter?
Although one’s motivation for a roommate may be financial, a second motivation and benefit are social. Living alone does not mean one is lonely. However, studies indicate that living alone is a predictor of loneliness that can lead to health issues such as depression, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Furthermore, living with a roommate is having someone to share some of the chores and maintenance needs, particularly if that roommate is younger.
Here are a few resources:
Silvernest: Started seven years ago, this is a home-sharing service for older homeowners that matches them with roommates. Founder Wendi Burkhardt says that “older homeowners can make an estimated $12,000 to $18,000 annually renting out a room,” according to a Kiplinger story called “Moves to Make Now to Age in Place.” In addition to the pairing service, Silvernest offers tools in helping with living arrangements, background screening, setting up auto-rent payments and more. About 30 percent of their pairings are intergenerational. A fee is charged to housemates wanting a room. Silvernest is present in Los Angeles and several other communities in California. See www.silvernest.com .
Senior Homeshares: This is a national online housemate service specifically for older adults. The service matches individuals who have an extra room in their homes with other older adults typically on a fixed income and looking for safe affordable housing. Many of the roommates are empty-nesters, widows or widowers who may have a difficult time adjusting to living alone. Homeshares, a nonprofit organization, is free and welcomes donations. According to their website, Homeshares “helps you find companionship, live more safely and ease your finances.” See https://www.seniorhomeshares.com/
ALA Shared Housing program: This program matches two or more unrelated people in Los Angeles to share a home in exchange for rent or services such as cleaning or cooking. The housing providers can be homeowners or renters with an average age of 75. Housing seekers may be retired, employed or students. Their average age is 65. The house seekers must be mentally, physically and financially self-sufficient. ALA is the intermediary that screens both providers and seekers. See http://www.alaseniorliving.org/shared-housing
Intergenerational housing: One example is Nesterly, a marketplace that helps connect older adults host younger adult tenants in the extra space in their homes. They charge an upfront matching fee and a percent of the monthly lease. See www.Nesterly.com. In Orange County, Homeshare OC Program specifically matches college students with homeowners with a spare room to rent. All parties benefit as students pursue their educational goals while enriching the lives of older adults. See https://his-oc.org/our-work/home-share-oc/ Also check with colleges and universities in your community for student housing requests.
National Shared Housing Resource Center. This is a network of independent nonprofit home-sharing programs across the United States, providing referrals to local agencies, programs and guidelines on finding a housemate. They offer a directory of programs with almost 20 in California including Ventura and Orange Counties.
On a more informal approach, use your network of book groups, garden clubs, churches and synagogues, senior centers, libraries and more to let folks know you are looking for a roommate. Networks continue to be a powerful resource.
Thank you, E.T., for your important and relevant question. Good luck in finding that right roommate when the time is right. As always, be safe and kind to yourself and others.
Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Helendenn@gmail.com. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her on facebook.com/SuccessfulAgingCommunity