Unless you married right out of school you probably went through a period of time when you shared housing with people who weren’t related to you. How well that worked out mostly depended on how similar you were in values, habits, interests, and the willingness to work out your differences. Once settled in a career you most likely left the world of house-sharing to join the ranks of the married, partnered, or happily solo and lived with a loved one or Alone. Do you look back on your days with roommates as favorable? Did you form lasting bonds? Do you keep in touch with those roommates of old? Proximity often breeds affection and those relationships can lead to lifetime connections. It did for me.
Now, fast-forward four or more decades. Could you share housing again? Would it be a similar experience? The answer for many people is YES.
Many older adults, especially solo agers, find themselves living alone later in life. They may have raised kids and then been widowed or divorced years earlier and are now rambling around in a large home by themselves or they may have lived alone by choice throughout their adult life. In whatever way they came to live solo in their 6thdecade or beyond, this may be a good time to reevaluate whether living alone is a solid strategy going forward–for financial reasons, health reasons, and social reasons.
Home sharing is growing in popularity among older adults and there are some very good reasons for its popularity. Annamarie Pluhar, creator of SharingHousing.org and author of Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates, describes the most sought-after benefits as follows:
- Saves money on rent or mortgage
- Saves money on the cost of utilities (heat, water, power, cable TV/internet)
- Help with cleaning and indoor tasks
- Help with outdoor and seasonal tasks
- Help in an emergency
- Someone to care for pets when you are away
- Someone to pick up food and medicine when one of you is sick
- Someone to share a meal with
- Someone to notice changes in your behavior
- Increased social connections
- Help with transportation
The list of potential advantages of sharing a home is actually much longer and limited only by imagination. We are social creatures, we need human connections, and when we don’t interact with others, loneliness and isolation can easily set in.
Over the last ten years, many studieshave indicated that isolation and loneliness are the top challenges American’s face as they age. Some mental health expertsare saying isolation and loneliness will kill you faster than smoking or obesity. So, as a society, what can we promote to combat this growing threat to aging well? Home sharing may be a top-notch remedy, so why aren’t people ready to give it a try? I guess it’s the old rugged individualist model of American independence. It may also be about privacy concerns or intrusion on long-practiced daily habits. But maybe it’s worth reconsidering that position.
- Senior isolation increases the risk of mortality
- Feelings of loneliness can negatively affect both physical and mental health
- Perceived loneliness contributes to cognitive decline and risk of dementia
- Social isolation makes seniors more vulnerable to elder abuse
- Social isolation in seniors is linked to long-term illness
- Loneliness in seniors is a major risk factor for depression
- Loneliness causes high blood pressure
- Isolated seniors are more likely to need long-term care
- Lonely people are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior
The down-side of isolation and loneliness is clear, but I think the positive reasons for considering home sharing are even more compelling. I’m a big fan of building community, whatever form that may take, so if the idea of sharing a home with lotsof people (e.g living in a retirement community or co-housing) does not appeal to you, maybe having one simpatico individual around the house would be a better option.
If you are interested in exploring your options for home sharing, you might want to check out some of the popular sites for finding just the right person. SilverNestis my personal favorite. They not only have great tools for finding that perfect match, but they also have listings you can browse and a safe site to post your own home for others to consider. They aren’t in every community yet, but they are growing in size every month and their reach is extending with that growth. Other sites to check out are SeniorHomeSharesand Let’s Share Housing. They all have proprietary software that was designed to match people with homes to share with those who are looking for those homes.