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How do you find a roommate if you’re older and need to split the costs?

Q I am in my 60s and married to a wonderful, much older man. I hope he lives forever! Being pragmatic, I have to plan my financial security. How do I find a roommate to share the housing costs if I find myself alone? I would like to stay in my same neighborhood if possible. Where do I start? HEY

Do you remember “The Golden Girls”? Who can forget Rose, Dorothy, Blanche and Sophia? This sitcom featured four roommates sharing almost everything, bringing attention to what we now call senior housing. Few thought the Golden Girls pattern would turn into a trend of older adults looking for roommates or housemates. Although this trend is small, it is growing.

Choosing the right roommate takes some homework. Consider the following helpful checklist compiled by Agewise Colorado:

  • Consult the references. Call them and ask about their experience with candidates regarding their integrity, honesty, communication skills, and cleanliness.
  • Determine if applicants are financially stable. Do they pass credit and background checks?
  • Check their names on the internet and see if there are any warning signs.
  • Find out if the person is able to live independently, both physically and mentally?
  • Identify your deal breakers. Are pets ok? What about overnight guests and alcohol consumption?
  • Does this person share your values? Are they considerate? Do they respect the property of others? Is this person clean and tidy or it doesn’t matter?

While a roommate’s motivation may be financial, a second motivation and benefit is social. Living alone doesn’t mean you’re alone. However, studies indicate that living alone is a predictor of loneliness which can lead to health issues such as depression, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Also, living with a roommate means having someone to share some of the household chores and maintenance needs, especially if that roommate is younger..

Here are some resources:

Silver Nest: Launched seven years ago, it’s a home-sharing service for elderly homeowners that matches them with roommates. Founder Wendi Burkhardt says “senior homeowners can earn between $12,000 and $18,000 a year renting a room,” according to a Kiplinger story called “Moves to Make Now to Age in Place.” In addition to the matching service, Silvernest offers help tools for living conditions, background checks, setting up automatic lease payments and more. About 30% of their couples are intergenerational. Fees are charged to roommates wanting a room. Silvernest has a presence in Los Angeles and several other California communities. See www.silvernest.com.

Senior roommates: This is a nationwide online roommate service specifically designed for seniors. The service matches people who have an extra bedroom in their home with other seniors who are usually on fixed incomes and are looking for safe and affordable housing. Many housemates are empty-nesters, widows or widowers who may find it difficult to adjust to life alone. Homeshares, a non-profit organization, is free and welcomes donations. According to their website, Homeshares “helps you find companionship, live more securely, and ease your finances.” To 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. Donors can be owners or tenants with an average age of 75 years. Housing applicants can be retirees, employees or students. Their average age is 65 years old. Housing applicants must be mentally, physically and financially self-sufficient. ALA is the intermediary that selects both providers and applicants. To see http://www.alaseniorliving.org/shared-housing

Intergenerational housing: An example is Nestle, a marketplace that connects older adults with younger tenants in the extra space of their homes. They charge an upfront matching fee and a percentage of the monthly lease. To see www.nesterly.com. In Orange County, Homeshare OC Programsspecifically matches university students with landlords with a free room to rent. All parties benefit as students pursue their educational goals while enriching the lives of seniors. To see https://his-oc.org/our-work/home-share-oc/ Also check with colleges and universities in your community for student housing applications.

National Shared Housing Resource Center. It is a network of independent, nonprofit home-sharing programs across the United States, providing referrals to local agencies, programs, and guidelines on finding a roommate. They offer a program directory with nearly 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 people know you’re looking for a roommate. Networks continue to be a powerful resource.

Thank you, ET, for your important and pertinent question. Good luck finding the right roommate at the right time. As always, be careful and kind to yourself and others.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on aging and new retirement issues with academic, corporate, and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at [email protected]. Visit Helen at HelenMdennis.com and follow her at facebook.com/SuccessfulAgingCommunity

Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.