Older adults who may be living alone as a result of being newly single when the kids leave the nest or losing a partner or those who never married or are recently divorced have realized that aging in place can be lonely without someone else around.
Solo aging can also be expensive for those accustomed to having two incomes to pay the bills.
What if seniors could have someone to share the experience of aging in place?
Many of us recall the popular 80’s TV series The Golden Girls, about four older women who shared a home.
Sharing the financial burden of housing, gaining companionship or a community, having help with the household chores including home maintenance, or taking care of a pet are some of the benefits that house sharing can provide for seniors who want to maintain their independence without shouldering the entire load.
Shared housing is another term for this fast-growing living situation many boomers are seeking either through online sites, workshops or personal connections.
Statistics show this trend is growing. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University found that the number of older adults living with non-relatives went from about 400,000 in 2001 to about 900,000 in 2016.
The numbers also reflect growth in shared housing that is outpacing the overall growth in the senior population, so the trend is one that is becoming more popular.
Because of the growing interest among seniors in a topic not known well by most family caregivers, we decided to make it the subject of this episode of the Senior Care Corner® Podcast.
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Benefits of Shared Housing
There are many benefits including having someone to talk with at the end of a busy day or someone who will keep an eye out in case of an emergency which is an advantage for family caregivers who can relax a little that their senior is safe and not home alone.
As we age, we tend to have a decreased need for material things and gravitate toward shared relationships. We seem to be, as one expert stated at the recent Aging in America conference, ‘wired’ to connect with others as we age. Connectivity in social relationships is a major benefit of shared housing especially for solo agers.
Having extra income for seniors on fixed incomes by leveraging the largest asset, their home, can relieve financial burdens with which many older adults find themselves struggling. It is estimated that 45% of solo agers are 90% dependent on Social Security benefits for their income.
However, benefits also come with challenges, too. It is important that a housemate is fully vetted in advance and signs a contract spelling out the rent, house rules, and options to cancel the agreement. Getting advice from an expert on financial agreements and other legal details is imperative and organizations who help match house sharers will assist with this step of the process.
Being aware that conflict is inevitable, even among the best of friends and compatible roommates, so planning for these possibilities ahead of time will save trouble.
It is important to set up rules for the house such as who cleans the bathroom, overnight visitors, the thermostat settings, who gets a house key, expense sharing, when payment should be made, and how conflict will be resolved before entering into this type of agreement. Another important point to clearly spell out is how can housemates exit the agreement if they are dissatisfied with the arrangement?
Conversation with Silvernest
We first met Silvernest, a service that helps baby boomers and empty nesters meet the challenges of successful home sharing, at Aging in America earlier this year.
One of the things we really like about them is that they built a roommate matching process from the ground up based on the needs of older adults, rather than simply using one initially developed for those who are younger.
While researching Silvernest to learn more, we came across this self-description on BuiltInColorado.com, a hub for Colorado startups:
Silvernest boldly breaks the rules of aging so you can open your home on your own terms. We’re creating the next generation of roommates. A more modern kind. A well matched kind. A kind that’s just your style. Because around here, the details are totally up to you.
In 2015, nonprofit leader, author, and activist Robert Egger, when asked by CNN “what is the most most important company we’ve never heard of,” said it was Silvernest.
We are pleased Wendi Burkhardt, Silvernest Co-Founder and CEO, agreed to let us record a conversation so we — and you — could learn more and are pleased to share it with you in this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast.
Link Mentioned in This Episode
- Silvernest website
We hope you found this podcast informative and will check back with Senior Care Corner often for future podcasts and other articles.