House Sharing

By Amy Winter

April 1, 2011 5 min read

With baby boomers now reaching retirement age, it is important to consider the options for senior living. Some seniors choose to move to a retirement community, whereas others decide to stay at home and make renovations. For those running low on funds, staying with their adult children might be a beneficial choice. But another viable option is called house sharing -- a long-term living arrangement in which unrelated seniors live in a shared house, apartment, condominium or mobile home, according to Nancy Thompson, the senior media relations manager for AARP, refers to house sharing as the "Golden Girls" household.

With house sharing, seniors are able to maintain the privacy of their own room, but they also gain a sense of community when sharing the common areas in the home (living room, kitchen, patio, family room). Seniors can retain their independence with the advantage of having others look out for them. Jim Woodard, a syndicated real estate columnist, says that an older homeowner may rent rooms to others if he needs extra income or would rather not live alone. Larger homes could be funded by community or faith-based organizations.

According to, house sharing could be a great option if a senior answers "yes" to some of these questions: Do you live alone? Could you benefit from extra income? Do you want to decrease housing costs? Do you need assistance with chores? Could you share your place? Would you be able to help with chores in order to lower your rent?

Once a senior decides to become involved with house sharing, the next step is to find an organization that matches homeowners with those seeking a home.

Ron Leshnower, the guide to apartment living/rental for, says that more nonprofit agencies are providing senior matching services. With seniors gaining more experience with the Internet, they are able to search for quality shared housing options or find matching agencies. Within cities and counties, shared housing organizations perform thorough roommate matching and look at special needs, personalities and necessities for each individual, according to Barbara Krueger, founder of The agencies check for safety, as well as compatibility.

Financial benefits aren't the only advantage to house sharing. Yes, housemates will share expenses, but other advantages include independence, security and companionship. By having housemates, less mobile seniors can receive help with cleaning, yardwork, transportation and cooking, according to Krueger. A senior may feel more secure and less lonely with others nearby. In case of an emergency, there is someone to call for help. And house sharing provides a friend to share interests and spend time with.

"Avoiding loneliness and isolation and enjoying community by living in a senior cohousing community can be one of the most rewarding decisions in a person's life," according to The Cohousing Co.

House sharing also can be in the form of several apartment buildings or even a whole community. Charles Durrett, co-owner of McCamant & Durrett Architects, has created cohousing communities. Durrett introduced many Americans to the idea of senior cohousing in his book, "Senior Cohousing: A Community Approach to Independent Living." The senior cohousing projects contain custom neighborhoods for seniors. Durrett says each resident has his own house but shares communal facilities for meals, laundry, etc.

As an alternative to living alone or going to a retirement home, cohousing provides a way to drain resources less quickly and enable people to care for one another, according to Durrett. Only four senior cohousing communities have been built, but there are dozens currently being designed. The cohousing community "allows seniors to live lightly on the planet and to enhance their quality of life at the same time," according to The Cohousing Co.

If you are considering house sharing, be careful and do your research. If you decide not to use a matching agency, try to get a referral from friends or family members. Leshnower recommends asking possible housemate applicants for references or running background checks.

"Health advances in recent decades have led to a situation where people are living longer and also needing less care," Leshnower says. "So the option of shared housing has great appeal to many seniors today."

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